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. Continue reading
The news is dire. According to this report, published on November 3rd, the Nigerian school girls who were abducted have been married off, and are now in their “marital homes.” Boko Haram’s leader, Abubukar Shekau, announced this in one of the terrorist group’s videos, and mocked any effort to try to find and free them.
What kind of response are we to have to this news? Are we to believe it? Are we to believe that the leader of the Boko Haram’s words are more trustworthy than the promises of God? This is indeed a tough place to be in– a place that says any and all hope is dashed, that all efforts to keep up morale are futile. Yet, in this time of extreme discouragement, waiting and hoping upon the Lord is still not a lost cause. As the Psalmist writes:
“Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.”
(Psalm 43:5, NIV)
This scripture speaks of holding onto hope. But how can one keep hoping and waiting upon the Lord in such discouraging circumstances? To keep up hope, one must place their hope in the one who is unchanging. Laying our belief on the rock of God’s Word instead of on the shifting sand of circumstance ensures that our hope will not waiver or be removed, as is relayed in the parable of the man who built his home on the rock:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25, NIV)
Because this man knew God’s Word and believed it to be true, he built his life on it, and his life’s hope, peace, love and joy were therefore unshakable. When we put our hopes into Christ’s words, we can also be unshakable in our hope.
“But AnnaLee,” you may ask, “How can you still believe they’ll be free if it’s been reported that the girls have already been married off?” Is it just wishful thinking?
I know how these promises sound. At this point, it may even seem insane. Yet, my hope for the release/escape of these girls is unbroken. God has promised it; therefore, He will come through on His promises.
From a purely rational standpoint, their escape or release is also not entirely impossible, either. In the case of this news actually being true (for we do not know the truth without question, as news concerning the girls has been so varied and ever-changing), one can still believe in their rescue because “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26, NIV). When God promised the release of these girls all those months ago, never did He say that it would happen according to our time or in our ways. He did not promise that it’d be plastered on a headline or announced during the evening news. He did, however, promise that each and every girl would be saved, freed– and that their identities would not be formed by this tragedy, but by them belonging to Christ. Albeit it might be seriously difficult to believe, these girls can still be rescued or freed from their “marital homes,” and not all is lost. In light of these promises founded in God’s Word, my faith– our faith, truly– remains unshaken, and our hope untarnished.
Because when God says something, He means it. I now leave you with this encouraging benediction:
“Blessed [are they] who [have] believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to [them]!”
(Luke 1:45, NIV)
Please be praying for these girls, whether they be in their own “marital homes” or are still in camps. Pray that their faith in the Lord would only grow to be stronger, and that the Lord would use them in mighty ways to bring their captors and/or husbands to the saving knowledge of Christ as their Lord ans Savior.
Pray also for members of the Boko Haram (BH), that the Lord would continue to soften their hearts and minds as they keep these girls in captivity, and that the heart of Shekau would be radically changed by the Love of Christ.
Pray for the girls’ families, most of whom have lost hope of ever seeing their daughters, sisters, and friends again; pray that these heartbroken men and women would hold onto this unshakable hope as well.
Pray that these girls, no matter where they are, would be freed soon, and that if they are in their marital homes, their husbands would be so affected by our sisters’ witnesses that they would come to know Christ through their wives, and would set these beautiful women free.
Do not lose hope, brothers and sisters! The Lord is near, and His promises ring true. For all these reasons, we pray.
Dear readers, be blessed.
UPDATE: After reading this heartbreaking story, it has been pressed upon my heart that these young girls would be prayed for– not only for their release and salvation, but for their healing and restoration after having obtained months of sexual abuse. Please pray that, if given the chance, these girls would look to Christ, and would not harm or abort their children, if they do have them. Pray that these young women choose life for their children, and that their hearts would be open to the healing work Christ wants to do in and through them.
This pain is unbearable without Christ. Please pray that they’d look to Him for the restoration and healing they so need.
A pastor once told my Young Adult’s group something along the lines of the sentiment “You can only come to know who you truly are when you come to know who Christ truly is.”
At the time, it was exactly what I needed to hear. I have seemingly always known Christ as my Lord and Savior, having been raised in the church, but I had made God out to be a God who was angry with me, a God who either was pleased because “I did good” or was displeased because I disobeyed or “didn’t do enough.” Due to this, I suffered from some seriously low self-esteem, OCD-like attitudes, and being overly critical of myself and others. Because I didn’t see God for who He’s shown Himself to be through His Word– that is, as the God who is quick to forgive, slow to anger, and abounding in grace and mercy, as stated in Exodus 34:6— I beat myself up for things that the Lord only wanted me to accept His grace and goodness in.
Needless to say, how a person views God affects every aspect of how they view themselves, other people, and the world around them. A distorted, non-biblical view of God can have huge consequences. Reading about the recent attack by female suicide bombers in Maiduguri, Nigeria, this could be no closer to the truth. On November 25th, 2014, 2 young women entered a busy marketplace in Maiduguri, screaming, and detonated their bombs, killing 30 people while injuring countless others. This attack is not an isolated incident; at least 2 other attacks of the same kind, involving female suicide bombers, have occurred since the 267 young girls from Chibok, Nigeria, were kidnapped in April. And with reports that three teenage girls from Colorado, USA tried traveling to Turkey to join ISIS, the concept of a self-identity in sight of God’s identity is an ever more pressing idea that needs to be brought to light.
What could make young, teenage girls want to join such horrific terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and ISIS? Many experts have stated that these groups portray themselves as a brotherhood fighting a holy war, creating a false sense of family; the idea of belonging to something greater can be, and has been, alluring for many young girls who feel like outcasts in their own communities. Looking for Truth, for love, for acceptance, and for identity, these young girls fall into the trap that the enemy uses frequently: trying to find belonging in the world outside of Christ. Because many of these young girls are Muslim to begin with, it can be all too easy for them join extremist groups that offer a completely fake version of the truth, love, and acceptance that they– and truly, all of us– are craving.
Jesus didn’t claim to only point to the way, the truth, or the life; He claimed to BE the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Only Jesus can offer us true identity in Him; how He sees us is THE most important thing in the universe. The apostle Paul declares this truth in Galatians:
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
—Galatians 1:10, NIV
When Christ is the one whom we’re living for, we know who we are in Him, stated in 1 Peter: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9, NIV). As people, we can try to form our own identity, but there can never be a true sense of self, of being loved, and of acceptance from God until we accept Christ Jesus as our Personal Lord and Savior.
Because of this, my heart goes out to these young men and women being told by the enemy that ISIS and Boko Haram offer something only Christ can offer. It’s heart-wrenching to know that what all these people want can be simply found in Christ, but that He may be the last person and place they come to for it. It’s sickening to know that what they think is a hug is actually a punch in the gut, a slap in the face; that what many think will bring them life is the very thing that will bring them death. This applies to more than Muslim girls trying to join ISIS or the Boko Haram; this same concept applies to any and all people trying to find belonging outside of Christ.
When the Lord first put the Chibok girls upon my heart, He showed me through Isaiah 62:4 that He saw them as “Hephzibah”– the ones He delights in. Though we may forget their plight, He never will; though they may be shrouded in the darkness of black hijabs, forced to be married off, being harmed and injured in every evil way imaginable, they are not what they are going through, but are dearly loved by God. These men and women in the Boko Haram are just as loved as those in captivity. Coming to know Christ, these men and women can be transformed from hateful, death-filled supporters of Boko Haram and ISIS to beloved children of God, walking in Love, instead of the heartless, destructive paths they’ve been walking in (Ephesians 5:1-2). If only these young women knew Christ, they’d know that they are delighted in and very loved– not because of anything they’ve done, but because of what Christ did.
Pray with me today that the young women and girls who’ve voluntarily joined ISIS and Boko Haram (BH) would see ISIS and the BH for the evil, demonic power they really are. Pray that these people would come to see who God truly is, through the lens of Christ. Pray that they’d see the darkness separated from the light as they come to know Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
Pray for our sisters in captivity, that the Lord would use them to bring others to Him by the power of His Holy Spirit; pray also that the Lord would soften the hearts of the Boko Haram leaders, and would place in them hearts of flesh as they come to know His great love– for it’s His great kindness alone that brings others to repentance (Romans 2:4, NIV). Pray not only for the girls seeking ISIS and BH as a place of belonging, but pray for all of those who are searching for meaning and belonging outside of Christ. Ask the Lord to put people on your heart to pray for and reach out to, to show the love and acceptance of Christ to. The world is looking for identity, and it is only truly found in Jesus’ arms.
Because in Christ Jesus, we are all named Hephzibah: Delighted In. Let us rejoice in this today, praying that more and more all over the Earth would take on this identity as well.
PRAISE/ PRAYER REPORT:
It’s been reported that the 219 girls who are still missing have been married off. Pray that these girls would be found and brought back home, no matter what the headlines say! The Lord is working here.
It’s also been reported that as of November 16th, 2014, vigilante groups working alongside the Nigerian military have taken back the town of Chibok! Read more about it here. Continue to pray for the Nigerian military, the vigilante groups, and every man, woman and child involved in this warfare. Our prayers are being heard!
“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16b, NIV)
On November 13th, 2014, the town of Chibok, Nigeria– the very same town these 219 kidnapped girls call their home– came under attack and was seized by the Boko Haram. What seems to be a very dire, hopeless situation, I challenge with a somewhat audacious hope, knowing that the Lord our God is a God who 1) is completely unfathomable in all His ways, and 2) is a God who means what He says, and says what He means.
All throughout scripture, it’s been shown that those in captivity are not forgotten by the Lord, but are actually very near and dear to His heart. Though we may forget them, He does not, and is mighty to act on their behalf.
When the Israelites were brought into exile by the Babylonians in 607-586 B.C., the entire world saw Israel and looked upon it as “Desolate” (Isaiah 62:4). The whole of Israel seemed to be abandoned by God, and was put to shame in the eyes of other nations. Despite all of this, the Lord was still at work, and was mighty to release Israel from their captivity in His timing, by His choosing. Though the circumstances differ between the Israelites and those in Northern Nigeria (Israel’s captivity was punishment for their sin; I would never even dare to say that the reasoning for Chibok’s captivity is the same), the same profound truth remains: The moments Jesus seemed to be most absent were the moments Jesus was the most near.
I understand that this information does not, and cannot, even begin to fully or truly comfort those who have lost all they know.
I understand that this information cannot dress every wound or heal the hearts affected by such horrible circumstances.
But I also understand that the Lord is with the men, women, and children of every town taken over by the Boko Haram, and that nothing– truly, nothing— can shock our God when it comes to the Boko Haram’s activities.
We cannot forget that though the Boko Haram has seemingly taken over various towns all over Northern Nigeria, these villages and towns are ultimately in the Mighty Hands of our Lord Jesus Christ. Not only are they in His hands, they are engraved in this hands.
“But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.’
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”
— Isaiah 49:14-16, NIV
Because these people and their lives are in the Sovereign hands of the Lord, hope can remain unshaken, and promises can continue to be looked forward to.
In light of all this, pray for all of our hurting brothers and sisters in Chibok. Pray that they would cry out to Christ and feel His overwhelming peace and nearness during such violent times, as is stated in Philippians:
“…The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
—Philippians 4:5b-7, ESV
Pray that as this peace would indeed guard their hearts and minds infallibly as they continue to trust in Him. Pray for those who don’t know Christ in these captured towns, that the Holy Spirit would move in tremendous ways in and through His people to preach the Gospel, so that “in Christ Jesus [they] who once were far away [would be] brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13, NIV). This time is a time of tremendous, heart-crushing pain and trial, but it is also a huge opportunity to love people in their most broken states, showing them the love of Christ and the truth of the Gospel in the process– pray that many opportunities would come to share Jesus with others– and that words “may be given [Christians in Nigeria] so that [they] will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19, NIV). Pray that the Lord’s hand would be upon these girls, and that they’d be protected against any and all harm that is being perpetrated by these terrorists. Pray that the young girls who know Christ would be used by Him to bring their kidnappers to faith in Christ Jesus.
Outside of these young men, women and children being taken care of and knowing the Lord, pray for the Nigerian military and the vigilante groups coming against the Boko Haram as they try to take back these cities; pray that they’d know Jesus, and that as they know Him, their morale would be strengthened to fight this fight with bravery, honor, and compassion for those who’ve been kidnapped. Pray that the corrupt, fickle nature of the Nigerian government would be brought to justice, and that as it’s brought to justice, these girls would be found alive and unharmed. Pray for justice for these broken families; that the Lord’s hand would move swiftly and powerfully on their behalf to take back their captured communities.
In a place where there has been so much death, so much pain, and so much hopelessness, pray that the churches in Northern Nigeria would be fortified, upheld and strengthened by the Lord.
Pray that these young girls would know that they matter– that they haven’t been forgotten by the Lord, that salvation is near, and that their heartbreaking circumstances are held (and engraved!) in the Lord’s hands.
Because truly, no matter what happens, there is no better a place to be.