On September 11th, 2014, news was made that Comrade Shehu Sani, President of the Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, along with the Red Cross, started to join in talks with the Boko Haram to release 30 of the kidnapped women and girls from captivity in exchange for either 18 or 30 (mixed reports of both numbers have been published) of the Boko Haram’s key sect members, currently imprisoned by the Nigerian government. Negotiations going on to release the girls were suspended momentarily, due to disagreements between the government and the BH on the number of girls to be released. As the government wanted all of the girls freed for the 30 prisoners, the BH wanted to release them in a piecemeal matter, something that has frustrated negotiation attempts so far. The outcome is hopeful, but uncertain.
What seemed like a positive and progressive step towards the girls’ release was coupled and strengthened with the news that the Nigerian military, as well as vigilante groups fighting alongside the military, had won over attacks against the Boko Haram 35 km (22 miles) from Maiduguri— and in the process, killed one of the Boko Haram’s most feared commanders. On September 12th, it was reported that the Boko Haram’s leader, Abubukar Shekau, was killed during the fighting, though this report is also being incredibly questioned and found to be false. If it is true, the whole of Boko Haram may undergo serious changes in it’s effectiveness, level of violence, and military targets, as discussed in the above article.
With so much hope but yet so much uncertainty, it can be hard to stand firm and fast in the Lord’s promises. And a midst many other huge events– both of joy and sorrow– happening in Nigeria, the encouragement and happiness created by these unsure yet promising circumstances led me to, in the quiet of my heart, wonder, “Is this it, Lord? Has the time come?”
“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27, NIV)
During this time, many truths, through hardship and trial, have been learned, one being this: that Christ, and not our circumstances, must be where our hope abides. Reading a headline can easily (and has easily) thrown me into states of excitement, confirmation and encouragement, while other times, they’ve discouraged and disappointed me greatly, making me almost to lose all hope. This disposition can change daily, and usually does; some days, every headline seems to speak of a firm hope in their rescue and in this conflict’s resolution, and other days, that hope can be completely wiped away with a few sentences.
Hanging on to headlines instead of the promises of God can and will wipe out hope, quickly. But more and more, relying upon the Hope of Christ in us and His promises, we can be unmoved in our hope no matter the circumstances. As Paul says in Hebrews 6:19, “…we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (NIV)
No matter what headlines say– as so many of them are flawed, and the news itself can be faulty, sadly– something that has comforted me up until this point, and continues to even here, is the fact that Christ is alive and at work in every circumstance. He is faithful. We can trust Him in all things.
To be honest, I’ve found myself asking if I truly believe they’ll be free, as I once did so many months ago. The words Christ so boldly and beautifully wrote upon my heart in June have now faded with life events being weaved in, over and around those promises, making them to fade and turn rusty. My mind, body, heart and soul find it hard to keep from being dry, apathetic, and even bitter.
If I am brutally honest, I have been disbelieving. I have been apathetic. I have puttered out. I have become selfish, consumed with newer life events and my own trials (though I know and trust that God, too, has these situations in the very palm of His hand).
It is easy to become impatient. It is easy to be discouraged. It is way too easy to give up, to fade out, and to abandon this whole measure all together. In fact, I’ve found myself starting to do so without realizing it.
But reading these headlines– full of hope, of pain, of victories, of loss, all within the same days and weeks– has shown me that the Lord’s hand may be unseen, but He moves in more complex ways than we could ever pray for or imagine (Ephesians 3:20, NIV).
We have seen prayers answered: that the Lord would break and decimate the members of the Boko Haram, so that, being broken in spirit, they’d cry out to Jesus; that the government would be given wisdom and understanding for knowing how to fight against the Boko Haram, as well as how to get these girls back home. Both of these prayers, and assuredly many more prayers, have shown themselves to be attentively heard, graciously answered, and unmistakably true– like small, subtle slivers of light through blinds into a dark room.
But when the Lord promised they’d be free, He didn’t promise it’d be done on our terms. Never did our God promise that the story of these beautiful young girls, of the Nigerian people, wouldn’t be complex, chaotic, and filled with such sickening, incomprehensible situations that we’d be left speechless, confused, angered, annoyed, and shell-shocked at what we’ve read and heard.
Jesus also has not promised us that our lives would have simple plot lines. That the resolution to such huge problems would be big enough to fit on a newspaper headline. That the action would be filmed or shot on camera, that prayers answered would be completely and obviously seen.
But we must look at what He has promised us. We must hold on to His promises, remembering His faithfulness, and knowing that He will always be forever faithful to us. “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20, NKJV).
Pray for the men and women in Nigeria, that they would fall into such a place where they need the Lord, and that they, in the quiet, broken softness of their hearts, would come to know Christ Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Pray this also for the Boko Haram members, as they continue to fight in the name of Islam; pray that they’d come to see the meaningless, empty loneliness of their false idol worship. Pray that they’d see how the hatred, the bitterness, and the death not only of their physical selves but of their spiritual selves as well has come about, and that they’d cry out to Jesus in desperation as their Lord and Savior. That there, Christ would come to them and make Himself known to them in huge, amazing ways. Pray they’d be brought near to Him in His love, and would know His peace that surpasses all understanding– that they’d be completely and totally changed by His gospel.
As they come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, pray that they’d be strengthened and emboldened by the Holy Spirit, with all spiritual wisdom, revelation, and understanding, to bring the Gospel to those within the BH, so that all others may be saved as well.
Pray for Abubukar Shekau– that His heart would be slowly but surely tilled and broken up so that it may be supernaturally soft to hear the word of God. Pray that the Holy Spirit would break Shekau, so that this evil man may come to know Christ’s love and awesome redemptive power. Remember, the apostle Paul (formerly known as Saul) himself was a former terrorist to the early Christian Church before the Lord stopped him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9)! Pray that an equally, incredibly powerful event would occur in Abubukar’s life.
Pray– and Praise the Lord!!– for the negotiations happening between Shehu Sani, the Red Cross, and the Boko Haram; for favor on behalf of these girls, for their imminent release, and for the mighty and powerful hand of the Lord our God to move in and through those camps to bring all of the girls and the BH members to faith in Jesus.
What He has promised, let us not forsake in praying to Him for.
“…You who call on the Lord,
give yourselves no rest,
and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem
and makes her the praise of the earth.”
(Isaiah 62:6b-7, NIV)