In Northern Nigeria, it is no surprise that millions, left in ravaged places, displaced and penniless by Boko Haram, are starving. Hundreds of young children are daily being called either moderately or severely acutely malnourished, and their parents are given different resources to help stave off death for their young children.
However, the fact that this malnutrition is leading to widespread illness is somewhat surprising, because it hasn’t been so explored– until now. In this article by Science Magazine, the correlation between starvation and illness for those in Northern Nigeria was written about extensively. As heartbreaking the statistics might be, it is true: those who are acutely malnourished are “nine times as likely to die of an infectious disease” than those who are not malnourished (source).
Overall, this is understandable: those without any nutrients in their bodies cannot prevent infection or illness nearly as well, nor can they fight through an illness once they get one. This sad fact has been to blame for huge outbreaks of malaria (in the rainy seasons), as well as measles, polio, and other harmful illness (source). As “Food, water, and sanitation are scarce or nonexistent,” the article comments, “…The camps and slums provide a perfect breeding ground for disease.”
But starvation, and the disease that can ensue, are not the only reason for instability in the people of Northern Nigeria. Boko Haram continues to attack, using ten year olds as suicide bombers in major towns and cities. Just this past week, two different Boko Haram factions attacked two military bases in Gulumba and Wajirko Village; out of adequate weaponry, the Nigerian army from the Wajirko base had to retreat, and the base was set on fire. Five Nigerian soldiers were injured in the Gulumba attack, while four Nigerian soldiers remain missing. These attacks are not just on those in the Nigerian military: The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese in Maiduguri has reported that at least 500 Catholics have been killed, with 144,000 Catholics displaced or running to Cameroon (source).
These major instabilities, both health-wise and in attacks by Boko Haram, hold one thing in common: When one is weak– or when one does not have the right weaponry– it is much easier to attack and overtake someone. In the same way, a person “unarmed” or “unfed” spiritually is an easy target for the world, the enemy, and a person’s own sin nature to attack than for one who is spiritually “well-fed” and “well-armed.”
A man without hope, like a person without food, water, or adequate weaponry, is easy to crush. Yet, it can seem almost impossible to have any sort of Hope in such a condition that Job– or those in Nigeria– find themselves in. The question quickly becomes: in whom or what is my Hope?
It’s not difficult, when everything is going smoothly, to answer, “Jesus!”, but it is in the hardest times of a person’s life that this question is most important.
In Matthew 21, Jesus comes riding into the town of Jerusalem, riding on a donkey and a colt (Matthew 21:1-11). This is something many Christians celebrate as “Palm Sunday,” the Sunday before Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. At the time, the Jews in Jerusalem who had come for the Passover heard of Jesus’ entering Jerusalem on a donkey and colt, fulfilling the prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9. To celebrate this “Israelite King” and His entrance, they laid down palm branches, imitating the way Old Testament Israelites treated their Kings, as seen in 2 Kings 9:13 when Jehu was made King (source).
There is no doubt that these Israelites were excited: From what they were shouting, they knew Jesus was fulfilling prophecy, becoming the King they had always needed (whether or not they fully knew it).
“The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!'”
(Matthew 21:9, NIV)
The Israelites, in this very spiritually high time in their lives, dreamed of Jesus being the Messiah that they were waiting for. But, the Messiah that He came to be was not at all what they had expected.
Instead of being a Messiah that would save the Jews from the physical oppression of Rome, He was a Messiah whose Kingdom was not on Earth (at least, not yet), but in the hearts of the men who believed on Him (John 18:36; Luke 17:21). When the Jews realized that Jesus was not the Messiah and King they were waiting for– when Jesus’ identity and His purpose in their lives, and therefore, their present circumstances, no longer made sense to them– the Hope they had in Him was vanquished. Evilly angered by not getting their way, they yelled not a week later, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (Luke 23:21).
Yet, Jesus the Christ was coming for a lot more than to save the Jews from physical oppression; instead, He came to save all of humanity from the oppression of sin and death, by dying on a cross that both the Jews and Gentiles nailed Him to. Jesus was doing something much bigger than anything these Israelites could fathom– and, instead of trusting in Him alone for their Hope, they were putting their Hope in if Jesus was going to do what they wanted or not.
Jesus did come to save; He saved in a better way than any person could ever think of. David was correct when he put his full trust in Christ alone: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2, KJV). In a time of great need, David put His trust in God alone, no matter what that meant for Him. This is what Christ calls for us to do.
Because it is Christ alone who can fill a person with the Bread of Life and Living Water. It is Christ alone who is the Word (John 1:1-3), our weapon against the enemy (Ephesians 6:17). Without Hope, a person will quickly find themselves defeated. If one’s Hope is in good circumstances, or even in believing that God will do what one wants, that Hope has the good possibility of being swept away.
But if Christ alone is a person’s Hope, that Hope can NEVER be snatched away from them.
In this incredibly complex situation, where thousands, if not millions of displaced peoples are dying from illness and disease, or where Nigerian soldiers and Catholic clergy & laypeople are still being attacked by Boko Haram left and right, it is imperative that one puts their Trust, Hope, and Joy in Jesus alone.
Because, 11 of Jesus’ disciples– all of them, except for Judas– put their Trust, Hope, and Joy in this man who had rolled away the stone from Lazarus’ tomb, raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:38-44). But Jesus did not stop there; He gave His own life (even when His disciples couldn’t understand it), sacrificing it on Calvary, that whomever might believe in Him will not perish (John 3:16).
Through the sorrow and confusion of the Messiah’s actions, there was ultimately Life. Peace. Joy. No matter how circumstances seemed, Jesus’ Will was done– and what a glorious, ultimate Will it was.
It is the same now. May the people of Nigeria put their full Hope, Trust, and Joy in Jesus the Christ– because, in Him, though there is Pain, it will not be wasted. 🔹
Do you know Jesus?
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
(John 11:25-26, NIV)
Many people know that Jesus died on a cross; but they do not know why He died on the cross. Similarly, they know that Easter, at least for many people, is known as Resurrection Sunday, the day Jesus rose again from the grave; but they fail to see it’s significance.
If we’re honest, a lot of Christians fail to see it’s significance, too. But without Jesus’ Resurrection, the whole of Christianity would be in vain.
Every Passover, as recorded in Numbers 28, the people of Israel were to celebrate their exodus out of Egypt by sacrificing two young steer, one ram, seven 1-year old lambs, and one goat (Numbers 28:16-25). These sacrifices were ultimately to celebrate an amazing fact: in Exodus 12, during the exodus of the egyptians each Israelite who painted the blood of a Lamb on their doorposts were not visited with the plague of death that the Egyptians suffered (Exodus 12:1-12). See more about this amazing holiday, here.
Moreover, the Messiah was sinless– a spotless lamb, to be the sin-offering for the world (in Judaism, ritual cleanliness was related to spiritual cleanliness, as seen in Leviticus). But what is the significance of Christ rising again?
To do away with sin’s power, the spiritual separation– death– it caused, one needed to not only be a “perfect” man: they had to have power over life and death, death being unable to conquer them.
This is what Jesus did. Meet this Messiah– and understand how and why He came to save you– here.
Please pray with us:
“Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You for being the spotless Lamb that saved us from our sin! May we celebrate this, not only on Easter, but everyday!
Dear Lord Jesus,
We pray over those who are currently going through the horrific experiences of starvation and illness. Dear Lord Jesus,
We pray in Your Name that You would send aid workers into these suffering places, as well as the Nigerian government, to feed these hungry and fragile people.
More than anything,
We pray that these people would be fed the Gospel– that they would have the Hope, Trust, and Joy only found in You, as they lean on You as their Lord and Savior. Please feed these people, both spiritually and physically, Lord Jesus!
Dear Lord Jesus,
We also pray for those who are losing their loved ones to Boko Haram.
Dear Jesus, as so many grieve, either their co-soldiers, or their brothers and sisters in the Faith,
We pray that they would find comfort, rest, and Hope in the fact that Your Tomb was empty on that third day: That those who believe on You will live, though they die, and we will see them again.
We pray over all of this suffering, dear Jesus, and over the Chibok Girls: Please bring them home, in Your Timing, and do Your Ultimate, Glorious Will in all of our lives,
Even if it hurts, and we do not understand.
In Jesus’ Name we pray,
Thank You for your prayers!