Bomb blasts filled the main markets all across Northern Nigeria. Markets in Jos, Maiduguri, and Yola, just as they were starting to be rebuilt and basic infrastructure re-attained, vicious, insane men senselessly killed themselves, murdering many, and ruining the lives of hundreds more, in mere seconds. These things– the shocking sounds of exploding bombs, the sudden panic and pain inflicted, and the oppressive, haunting psychological and physical trauma received by its victims– are exactly what the people of these ravaged, war-torn areas were terrified of in the first place. Despite the fact that many speculators predicted these kinds of events in light of Nigeria’s victories over Boko Haram, nothing could ever truly prepare men and women for the incredulous, violent attacks that happened all within weeks of each other. Again, these people have seemingly been sadly defeated and shamed in the face of their enemies.
In an unbelievably different way, there are many who are facing similar, poignant, hopeless shame. One article calls to light the many men and women (mostly men) who have been unjustly charged– and ruthlessly tortured– as Boko Haram members. In such a report, it is stated that the Nigerian military has “kidnapped” hundreds of civilians and kept them under appalling conditions, all out of insufficient suspicion that they are actually apart of Boko Haram. There has also been claims of the Nigerian government shutting down Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps all across the North, causing IDPs to scrounge for necessities as they try to repair their desolate lives. These accusations, as well as the Nigerian military acting insensitively towards the corpses of dead prisoners, have been cause for mass scrutiny and disappointment of those both in Nigeria and in the rest of the world. While those who are being evacuated by the Nigerian government have little to nothing to rebuild their lives with, those innocently held, not by Boko Haram– but by the military that should be protecting them– lie in horrid captivity, waiting for truth and justice to bring them vindication.
The Depth of Our Need
Whether it’d be internationally displaced peoples having to now fend for themselves outside of camps, or people still living in fear and shame as they try to rebuild their lives in unstable, insecure towns and villages, many have little to no idea how God will come through– if even there is one at all to come through. There is no tangible, physical hand for many to hold during this time; with such loneliness and trauma gripping people, many have lost hope– some to the point of death– in God, Jesus, and His ability to love, redeem, and save. Drowning from the circumstances in this life, people in Northern Nigeria (and truly, all people, everywhere) are desperate for a life jacket, a rock to stand on, or a hand to hold. Thankfully, we have a Lord– Jesus– who understands the depth of our need.
Not only does our Lord know this; He has helped with it time and time again with His children. Throughout the Word, there is example after example of Jesus loving His children in the worst, most desperate times– while strengthening His children’s lack of faith in the times of great chaos. One beautiful occurrence of this Truth in scripture is Matthew 14, where, amidst crashing waves, Christ calls Peter to do something utterly impossible; yet, completely possible with Jesus: He calls Peter to get out of the boat and walk towards Him on the water (Matthew 14:28-29).
Our Need Met, Forever
At first, Peter is obedient, stepping onto the water. But, then, Peter starts to sink, crying out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:29-30, NIV). Was it Jesus’ fault that Peter started to sink? Whose fault was it, that He became shaken? It was not Christ’s fault that He fell; but rather, it was Christ who held Peter’s hand as He sunk. Peter took his eyes off Jesus, and was immediately swallowed up by fear, overwhelmed by the crashing waves around him. Christ, being both Loving and All-Powerful, calms and chastens Him with one single, profound question: “‘You of little faith… why did you doubt?'” (Matthew 14:31, NIV). Once again safe in Jesus’ arms, Peter is brought by Christ to the boat as the winds calm down, where the disciples praise and worship Jesus, “saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God'” (Matthew 14:33, NIV). As if it was merely a bad dream, the once threatening circumstances surrounding Peter subsided, and His attention was back onto the One whom his heart loved, the One who was always in control: Jesus.
Jesus was not unwilling to save anyone who called upon His name. The same is true for us today. It is by faith that we are saved; yet, even where our faith falters, Jesus is faithful to “strengthen us” and “keep us from the evil one” (2 Timothy 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:3, NIV). So often, we can take our eyes off Jesus and be utterly overwhelmed by the sorrows of our lives, feeling that we are no match for what comes against us. And alone, without Christ, we are. The evil darkness within and around us can swallow us whole, a concept that too many in Nigeria– and those all over the world– know too well. But for those who know Christ, one Truth is absolutely certain: He will never let go. We ourselves may break, but we have the true, real, tangible promise that He, our God, Jesus, “is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). Though the water is rough– unbearable– those who know Jesus personally have Him, the Christ, our Savior, who is willing to walk the waves to get to them. He is holding out His hand of perfect peace– to save, stable, and strengthen us, no matter the terrifying, unjust conditions we find ourselves in.
The reality of many in the North of Nigeria is evil. The pure chaos, horror, and heartbreak of their lives is unspeakable. But in all things, Nigerians have a God who is not far off, willing to let them sink. Instead, He is Emmanuel, “God with Us”; the love, hope, and strength they need, only a shout– and a hand-hold– away. May they look up, reach out, and grab hold.
Do you know Jesus?
“Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”
(2 Timothy 2:10-13, NIV)
Jesus chose to disciple many difficult, scared, foolish– and, in Judas’ case, evil– men while He was on this earth. Though these men professed love for Jesus, they failed time and again; whether it’d be by simply misunderstanding His words (John 13:7), or completely denying Him at His gravest hour of need (Luke 22:54-62), these men fell tragically short in every way of God’s standard of perfection. Yet, Jesus, “their Lord and their God” (John 20:28), did not forsake them; instead, He loved them to the very last moments of His life (John 13:1). Jesus was faithful in a much bigger way, though: fulfilling His very own prophecies*, Jesus came to die the ultimate death so that we might find true Life in Him (John 14:6). Meet the God whose Love endures forever– and goes to any length to find and save us– here.
*For a list of prophecies Jesus beautifully fulfilled, click here.
“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.”
(Isaiah 62:1-2, NIV)
As we go about our day to day lives, it can be hard to remember our brothers and sisters around the world, as () states. Yet, as we ask the Lord to fill our hearts with love, remembrance, and concern for our brothers and sisters, many prayers come to mind.
First of all, pray for the many men, women, and children who have been displaced because of Boko Haram’s terrorism– and who are now living on the streets, because of the government shutdowns of IDP camps. Pray that these men, women, and children would come to know Jesus, and in doing so, would “cast their cares upon Him” (1 Peter 5:7). Pray that in doing so, the Lord would provide stable, sufficient housing, and food and water for these destitute families.
In many cases, these families are ripped apart as they run away from Boko Haram violence, or by being detained by Boko Haram. Pray that these people can find one another and reunite soon.
Pray also for the families ripped apart by Boko Haram violence. Pray for those who have survived the violence; pray that the trauma they have experienced would be met, confronted and healed by the Lord, as they come to know Him.
Pray for those wrongfully and rightfully detained in Nigerian prisons. Pray that all of them would come to know Jesus personally as their Lord and Savior; pray that those who rightfully are in prison, that they would seek Jesus and would be changed by His Love, Power, and Presence in their lives. Pray for a complete, true revival in Nigerian jails, all to the glory of Jesus, our God. Pray those wrongfully in prison would look to Jesus for justice, and would find their vindication.
Pray that those harmed by Boko Haram– and living with Boko Haram as a reality in their lives– would seek shelter under Jesus’ wings. Pray that those recently harmed in the bomb explosions made by Boko Haram would recover in all ways: mentally, emotionally, physically, and most importantly, spiritually.
Though it might take much time, pray for the continued healing of Nigeria. Most of all, pray that the waves of these events would not wash over, overwhelm, or engulf the men, women, and children of Northern Nigeria. Pray that the Lord would personally dress every wound these beautiful people have, and that, by His Will alone, they would find rebuilding, restoration, and strength in their daily lives, by Jesus’ Power alone, to His glory. Pray, more than all things, that all Nigerians– and all people, for that matter– would seek, find, and hold Christ’s hand. With it, “You [Jesus] guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory” (Psalm 73:24). May we all take His hand– and hold it harder– day by day.
Lastly, pray for the more than 200 young girls still missing, after being kidnapped 14 months ago. Pray for their, in God’s timing, safe release– and that the Lord would redeem this horrific event in a beautiful way– for, only He can.
Over the next few weeks, please have these thoughts and requests in your prayers.
**If you would like this prayer request list to be printed out or seen by itself online, click here to view and download it.** Praise Jesus for you– and thank you for “Continu[ing] to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3).