“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
(Proverbs 13:12, NIV)
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined… How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! …It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”
(Matthew 12:25; Psalm 133:1, 3, NIV)
The people of Nigeria– all people, for that matter– were not born to be senselessly, irredeemably fractured. The sight of a broken person, physical or otherwise, either stirs up two things: compassion, if they are an innocent victim of what fractured them, or condescension, if they got themselves into their fractured state. In the case of Nigeria, and especially Northern Nigeria, there is a mix of both. And while there might be confusion and debate surrounding the exact cause(s) of Nigeria’s wounds, one fact is undeniably plain: Nigeria is a nation that is, in many ways, pitted against itself– and in certain danger of falling.
Nigeria: A Nation Unequal & Divided
Southern Nigeria, due to its oil production and metropolitan area of Lagos, is superior to Northern Nigeria in huge ways. To the outside world, this fact is made obvious by statistics alone: education in Northern Nigeria, being only one aspect of their “backward” society, comes severely short of levels in Southern Nigeria. It is estimated that 60-80% of school-age children in the North are not attending school ; and while 80.5% of children in the Southeast attend school, only 43.5% attend in the Northeast, just 600 miles away . While many of the youth in Southern Nigeria have access to primary and higher education, the majority of youth in Northern Nigeria spend their days begging alms as a part of the almajirai culture, a culture that encourages young men to become migrants pursuing islamic knowledge. Though being an almajiri has its honor in that young men “commit themselves to be servants of Allah,” the culture often creates beggars who, later on, become foot soldiers for thugs or terrorists. This inequality is not only seen in education; infrastructure, something incredibly important for the progress of any region, is critically lacking in the Northeast and Northcentral regions of Nigeria. The infrastructure that has been implemented in the North has been completely ravaged by Boko Haram’s violent attacks– and what remains, just as the lives of those affected, is hopelessly charred and almost impossibly destroyed.
But these people– and the problems they face– are more than statistics. The broken, fractured, underdeveloped life those in the North lead is a harsh reality that not many of us know. While many nations have had internal struggles, the severe separation between Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria can easily remind one of a nation who, long ago, was completely divided by corruption and sin: Israel.
Sin Divides Israel
Israel did not start out as a divided nation, nor was it ever God’s design for it to be. From the beginning, when God called on Abraham and promised him “descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore” (Genesis 22:17), God’s design for Abraham’s descendants, called “Israel” after Jacob (Genesis 35:10), was that they would collectively be God’s own people, Holy and Set-apart for Him. In a larger sense, the Israelites were to be the representatives of God to the world and the bloodline through which the world’s Messiah would come (which was fulfilled in Jesus Christ). Israel, in the beginning, was to have God as their King alone, with appointed Judges to arbitrate disagreements and keep order, as seen in Exodus 18– Judges. In 1 Samuel 8, though, the Israelites rejected this God-given design. By rejecting God as their King (1 Samuel 8:7) and asking for a human king “like all the other nations…to lead, to go out before [them] and fight [their] battles” (1 Samuel 8:20), the Israelites chose the world– and their own understanding– over the LORD’s. This choice, though granted by the LORD, planted seeds of idolatry in the Israelites’ hearts, which grew to reap such corruption, perversity, and sin that the nation ended up being divided between “Israel” (the Northern half) and “Judah” (the Southern half). Israel’s descent into factions– and later on, into complete destruction (2 Kings 24-25)— was caused by refusing the Lord’s plans and will for their lives, or simply, sin (Hosea 13:9-16).
The One who Mends Us
What man has ripped apart, only Jesus can stitch back together. In all things, God has been a God of reconciliation– and will be, as promised in Isaiah 11:12-13. This is true for all people, not just jews: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19, NIV). In what is been fractured by sin, Jesus Christ has used to bring reconciliation– unity– to the world. Through Jesus alone, the whole world will be made whole (Hebrews 13:20-21, MSG); “By His wounds, we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). This Truth, more than anything, is a reason for hope in Nigeria. The fallen world that has caused Nigeria’s dissension and near collapse is not nearly as beautiful, or powerful, as the Lord of it. May Nigeria, who is in Christ’s Hands, be unified– and every crack and crevice radiate His wonderful, eternal, glorious light.
Do you know Jesus?
So many today long for peace; whether it’d be because of personal conflict or observation of world events, every person recognizes that peace is an absolute, yet seemingly unattainable, necessity in life. This absolute lack of peace and wholeness, whether one believes it or not, is caused by the fact that humanity, because of sin, has no peace– in fact, has hostility– with God. Perfect Peace upon this Earth has not ever been accomplished– nor can it ever be accomplished— through the works of man; but here is the beautiful part: God pursued peace with us first, in bringing Christ into the world. Learn more about the vastness of God’s love– and Jesus, “The Prince of Peace,” and “Lord of Lords,” here.
Christ has promised to redeem this Earth when He comes to reign on it (Isaiah 2:4), and the defeat of the enemy, along with the shattered pieces of a fallen world, are certain (Revelations 20:1-10; 21:3-4). While this is a beautiful and powerful Truth to hold on to, whatever restoration, healing, and mending the Father does for Nigeria is, in the end, truly dependent upon the people of Nigeria receiving Christ as their Lord and Savior. For this reason, we pray more than anything that each and every man, woman, and child the Lord has created in Nigeria would come to know Him in a real, intimate, authentic way.
As the Lord does this, be praying for those who are actively going to be used to bring them to Christ. Pray for pastors and laymen alike would be drawn into a passionate, Spirit-filled, Spirit-Led relationship with Christ, and that the Spirit would use them boldly through all means and in every way to reach the lost, broken, and hurting.
Be praying that all Christians would seek the salvation of the lost around them, and would prayerfully (and, as led, physically) support all brothers and sisters in every region– especially those places of crisis– as they boldly share the Gospel and love those around them, even their enemies.
Pray for those in the harshest parts of Nigeria. Pray they would be given the Lord’s Spirit of Boldness, Love, and a Sound Mind to comfort, encourage, guide, and strengthen them against the enemy, spiritually and physically. Pray for “a hedge of protection” (Job 1:10) around them as they live out their daily lives.
Pray for the Nigerian government and military. Christ knows the hearts of all men– including the hearts of every political leader in and around Nigeria. Pray especially that their new president, Muhammadu Buhari, would be freed from the bondage of islam and all restricting, deceiving religion; pray that He instead would know Jesus, the One and only True God, our very freedom.
Pray for the Lord to continue to humble the members of Boko Haram by destroying them in warfare. Pray that they would be freed, that their eyes would be unveiled, and that they would come to know the Love, Forgiveness, and Redemption of the Lord Jesus. Pray for the Nigerian military to come to know Christ, receiving His strength, wisdom, and power to defeat Boko Haram.
Pray, more than anything, that Christ would heal and restore the lives of those broken, wounded, and nearly destroyed by Boko Haram. Pray for those dearly affected by thugs, disease, and every other aspect of our fallen world. Pray that “[Our] God will meet all [their] needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). We know, that according to His Great Love and Mercy, He eternally will.
May all broken be healed– truly, we all are. Praise Him, who forever Heals us!
“Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases…”