On March 18th, 2015, Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, pledged in his “Covenant with Nigerians”– posted on Buhari’s official Facebook page during his campaign– to “give all it takes to ensure that our girls kidnapped from Chibok are rescued and reunited with their families” (source). On top of this lofty, but engaging promise, Muhammadu Buhari promised in July to “defeat Boko Haram by the end of this year” (source). This, no doubt, filled not only Nigeria, but the whole world watching, with confidence and hope. Plans that had been assured felt sure, and as Buhari was elected into office, his reputation for having integrity and making decisions with an iron fist excited Nigerians.
Yet, on April 14th, 2015, only one month after making such a bold promise concerning the Chibok girls, Muhammadu Buhari did not seem so confident. Humbly and solemnly confronting the problem of “finding our girls” on the first anniversary of their kidnapping, President Buhari’s take on finding and freeing the Chibok schoolgirls was this:
“We do not know if the Chibok girls can be rescued. Their whereabouts remain unknown… As much as I wish to, I cannot promise that we can find them.”
— Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari (source)
Not only this, but President Buhari, coming up on his own deadline for defeating Boko Haram with noticeable (but not fatal) developments against the terrorist sect, said the deadline “should serve as a guide” and that “if exigency of multiple operations across the country advises a modification, the federal government will not hesitate to do so in order to address new flashpoints that are rearing their ugly heads in some parts of the country” (source). Suddenly, the promises made by this iron-handed man became a lot less sure, as lofty ideals settled into the dust that is the Boko Haram insurgency.
Jesus’ Sovereign Will
As Nigerians, and those in the watching world, swallowed these bitter pills, one thing became clear: “But he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands” (Isaiah 32:8, ESV). This man, Buhari, may have planned– even promised— grand things concerning the end of Boko Haram and the release of the Chibok girls, but no matter his earthly authority, he is only human… and, invariably, God, Christ, is the One whose Sovereign will is done.
This is not to say that Christ delights in these developments. To understand this, one must know the difference between the Sovereign will of Christ, and the Perfect will of Christ: while He may allow it to happen, it does not mean it gives him pleasure to do so.
While the Perfect will of Christ is that Christ “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4), it is clear that some will not be saved: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2). While Christ “‘take[s] no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live’” (as Ezekiel 33:11 states), He ordains– or orders officially– for it to happen, because He has given humanity freewill. This can be seen in the rest of Ezekiel 33:11, as Christ tries to reason with the rebellious Israelites: “‘Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’” Just as Jesus’ frustration and heartbreak can be felt in Ezekiel 33:11, the same heartbreak and frustration, yet Sovereignty, can only be fathomed about the situation involving the Chibok girls and Boko Haram in Nigeria.
So, what can a person do when the plans of even the “noblest” men do not turn out the way one would like them to? Psalms 77 and 78 can give us some insight into this deeply real problem.
Coming to the God who Hears Us
Psalm 77 starts out in a really dark place– literally. Crying out, Asaph, the psalmist, opens with how desperate his situation is.
“I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah”
(Psalm 77:1-3, ESV)
Both “in the day,” and even “in the night,” the Psalmist is reaching out to Christ for something urgent. What the matter is, one can not explicitly say, but one thing is striking: the psalmist cries aloud to God, and knows that Jesus hears him (Psalm 77:1). So many times, when times become hard, one can become bitter and shake their fist at Christ, or ignore Him entirely. When Jesus couldn’t seem more far away, it takes amazing faith to look to Christ in the darkest of times, and cry out to Him, knowing that He is listening to our every word, and counting our every tear (Psalm 56:8). Yet, knowing that Christ hears our prayers, and answers them, is essential to a growing prayer life– and growing intimacy with Jesus, especially in the midst of storms.
Remembering His Faithfulness
Going on, the psalmist remembers the past, which he remembers as full of Joy– and, as the NLT renders it, “ponders the difference now.” In his seeking Christ, he becomes desperate, and asks questions that are raw, real, and heartbreaking:
“You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I consider the days of old, the years long ago. I said,”Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search:
‘Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?’ Selah”
This could quite possibly be the darkest moment ever for the psalmist. Although the answers to his questions are emphatically “No,” and remain “No” for those who know Christ as their Lord and Savior, these questions are incredibly dark.
But just as the psalmist is almost swallowed up by despair, something huge– something beautiful– happens to him: He remembers Jesus’ faithfulness in times past (Psalm 77:12). Asaph recalls how Christ intervened in a seemingly hopeless and dire situation, parting the waters of the Red Sea for the Israelites. For the believer on the verge of losing hope, this Truth is invaluable. In times of doubting Jesus’ faithfulness, we must look back on everything Christ has brought us through. In remembering what Christ has done, we remember who He is– and that He has not let go of us. In a situation that loses all hope, this Truth fills the believer with Hope settled in Christ, no matter the circumstance (Isaiah 40:31).
A Sudden Change
Psalm 78, though very long, also recounts what Christ did in the past; but also, unfortunately, speaks of Israel’s constant rebellion against Him. Psalm 78 further drives home the Truth that one’s hope must not be in circumstances, but Jesus. Yet, toward the end of Psalm 78, something is said that deserves reflection.
“Then the Lord awoke as from sleep, like a strong man shouting because of wine. And he put his adversaries to rout; he put them to everlasting shame… He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance. With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.”
(Psalm 78:65, 66; 70-72, ESV)
While it may seem odd to compare Jesus to a “strong man shouting because of wine,” it illustrates what He did, well: He did something new, and seemingly sudden, like a drunk man suddenly awakening out of sleep. What is this new thing He did, you might ask? In the midst of Israel being slaughtered in an act of Jesus’ judgment because of their idolatry, He “put his adversaries to rout,” and to “everlasting shame” (Psalm 78: 65-66). He then called David, a young shepherd boy, to rule over and shepherd the nation of Israel. In this passage, one thing becomes clear: Christ drastically changed the situation for the Israelites– He restored them, and He used people He chose to do so.
Seeking First the Kingdom
In this day and age, many a Christian are asking the question, “What is Jesus’ will for me?” Simply answered, He wants to create followers who seek Him with their whole hearts, and use them to change the world by bringing others to Himself. Many true followers of Christ have their hearts set on social justice; and while this is good and beautiful, there will never be true social justice until there is true heart change– and only Christ can do that. In attempting social change without the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, efforts are far less favorably spent than if one simply “seek[s] first the kingdom of Heaven, and let[s] all else be added unto [them]” (Matthew 6:33).
In the situation involving Boko Haram, Nigeria, and the Chibok girls, it can be easy to lose hope– especially when it has been over 600 days since the world last heard from the Chibok girls, and the Nigerian government seems to be doing little to nothing to bring these young women back. But, sticking to Jesus for hope, looking to Him daily, and asking Him to use us, He can do far more in and through us than we could possibly imagine.
Author’s Note: It has been said that our ministry can be used to minister to us. Time and again, I have known this to be true, as Christ will use the very same words He’s writing through me on here to write to me.
This post has been no different. Many months ago, Christ led me to further His cause by creating a petition to Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, asking that the president make it his top priority to find, and officially report, the whereabouts of the remaining 219 Chibok schoolgirls. Now, three months later, I praise Jesus to say that there are almost 60 signatures on the petition. With Christ’s Hand upon it, I am confident that the number will rise, all according to His will, and His alone.
Would you mind taking the time to look at the petition, and if you feel led, to sign and share it with others? With your help, and by the Holy Spirit’s power, I trust that Christ will work amazingly on behalf of these 219 precious human beings. Thank you!
Do you know Jesus?
Isaiah 32:8 boldly states, “But he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands.” While this is indeed true, it could be no more truer than of Jesus Christ, God the Son.
Though He existed long before He came to earth (Colossians 1:15-16), God, from the beginning, created the noble plan to save mankind through coming to earth as a man– Jesus Christ– and dying on the cross for the all of humanity’s sin (Acts 2:23; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). The NIV of this verse says, “But the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands.” By dying on the cross for humanity’s sin, humanity was given the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. Truly, for all who trust in Christ as their Lord and Savior, it is on Christ’s noble deeds we stand. But those who do not receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior are “dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh” (Colossians 2:13).
Do you know that even your noblest deeds “are like filthy, bloody rags” (Isaiah 64:6)? If you would like to stand on Jesus’ noble deeds alone for your salvation, the bible says that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10).
To receive Christ into your heart and life, you can ask Christ to in a simple prayer, or say one like this:
“Jesus, I believe that You and You alone are the One and Only True God, were born of the Virgin Mary, and died on the cross for the sin I committed (John 1:18; Matthew 1:18, 25; Romans 4:25). Lord Jesus, I put my faith in the fact that You not only paid the penalty for all my sin, but rose three days later, and are now living at the right hand of the Father (1 Corinthians 15:4; Colossians 3:1). Lord Jesus, I ask that You would come into my heart and life, and become my Lord and Savior. I praise You for this, Lord Jesus! Help me live a set-apart life to You. In Your Name I pray, Amen.”
If you believe and trust in Christ as your Lord and Savior, congratulations! You are “a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17). It is not the prayer that has saved you, but trusting in Christ alone. “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (Romans 10:13). Enjoy your new walk with Christ! 🙂
Please be praying for…
– The men and women most affected by the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping. Pray that they would come to know Christ, and that He would continue to comfort and strengthen their hearts during this Christmas season.
– Those most affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
– The Church in Nigeria. Pray that Christ would revive and strengthen His Bride, using them mightily in the lives of refugees and other victims; pray also that they would be used powerfully in bringing the Good News of Jesus to those who need it.
– Muhammadu Buhari and all the world’s top government leaders. We are called to pray for our own leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-3); pray that they would come to know Christ, and would search after Christ in the things that are important.
– The Nigerian military and the Multinational Joint Task Force.
– The Chibok girls, and all others who are kidnapped. Pray for their wellbeing, and speedy release home.
– This petition, that Jesus would have favor on it and use it to help bring the Chibok girls back home.
Praise Jesus for your prayers! By them, He can change the entire situation in Nigeria! I pray we would trust Him for, and be apart of this change, as He guides.
Jesus bless all of you!