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The Strength to Survive

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What is God teaching you through suffering you’ve experienced? How can you create space to experience God’s presence in difficult circumstances?

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, ESV)

Sundays are normally my favorite days. But this Sunday morning was different. It started with a phone call from my sister at 3:30 a.m. with the words: “Come to my house to pray.”

Typically on Sundays, my sister Verlini and I go to church and lead worship together, and I tell Bible stories to the children. At church, we sing, pray, learn and rest in the presence of the Lord. That’s why Sunday mornings have always filled my heart with hope, sustaining me through the week ahead.

But something was stirring in us that Sunday. We wondered if we were just feeling nervous about the song we’d planned to sing in worship that day. We weren’t sure what we were supposed to pray for so we just started to pray.

We prayed for church members who were sick or struggling. We prayed the day’s services would be an encouragement to people and an honor to God. But there’s one prayer from that morning that I’ll never forget: “God, give us the strength to worship You, no matter what happens.”

Later that day, as Verlini and I were about to sing, a bomb went off in the church. I was severely burned and 31 church members lost their lives. We learned later that a terrorist group had targeted us because we’re Christians.

How could they ruin a sacred thing like Sundays? How could we possibly return to worship after such a malicious attack?

My recovery was long and difficult. I still have hard days, and I can’t explain why such a horrible thing happened to us. But I can tell you one thing for sure: My faith in God is what kept me alive and gave me the strength to survive.

John 16:33 says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Through the burning rubble and the searing pain, Jesus was there. His love and His forgiveness keep thumping through our veins like the beat of a familiar refrain: There is nothing, nothing, nothing that can give hope and peace like Him.

And no one can turn a bad thing into a good one like Jesus can. Though we feared our congregation would be too afraid to return to church, the attack has deepened our faith and broadened our outreach instead. They returned to worship with newfound fervency. People are giving their lives willingly to Jesus, saying, “Whatever happens, we will face it for You.” And together, we are finding that — even through a tragic event like this — Jesus, truly, is worth it all.

Jesus told us that choosing to follow Him means choosing to suffer for Him, too. But He also promised to sustain us through it. He promised that because of, not despite, our pain, we will experience His love and forgiveness for us and for the world.

I believe that God called us to that early-morning prayer meeting to strengthen us for the challenge ahead. I believe He was fortifying our hearts to depend on Him through difficult days. I believe He used the prayers of the global Church to uplift us through an unimaginable tragedy. And I believe He’s still calling us back to that place of prayer, where we are united in spirit with Him and with each other. In Jesus, we find the strength to survive and the song to sing along the way.

God, I thank You for providing everything we need to face difficulty with grace. I thank You for being present with me in pain. Please strengthen all the brothers and sisters who are persecuted for Your sake today. Help them to know they’re not forgotten in their suffering. Provide them with everything they need to stand strong. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Isaiah 26:3-4, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.” (ESV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Persecuted Christians like Rebekah are asking for your prayers. Will you commit to pray with them through Open Doors USA? Sign the 2021 Prayer Pledge and download the Pray for the Persecuted smartphone app to receive real-time notifications and prayer requests straight from the persecuted church.

CONNECT:
Rebekah is a Christian living in Sri Lanka. Because she is at risk of further persecution, she cannot provide her last name for publication. Open Doors USA is publishing this devotion on Rebekah’s behalf to help protect her from further persecution.

Learn more from Rebekah and other persecuted Christians at OpenDoorsUSA.org.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What is God teaching you through suffering you’ve experienced?

How can you create space to experience God’s presence in difficult circumstances? Join us in the comments today.

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