This week, a missionary colleague was arrested by security police and his family has not heard from him for four days. Yesterday I was thinking about what I would want someone to tell my boys Luke and Zack if I was in prison. Here is what I would want them to know:
1) God loves and trusts your dad enough to send him to prison.
In Mark 1:10 the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus. In Mark 1:11 God says, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” And then in the very next verse the Spirit DROVE Jesus into the wilderness – where angels ministered to Him. Your papa is in prison because God loves and trusts him, and God will send angels to minister to your papa.
2) God is completely in control.
In John 19:10 Pilate says to Jesus, “Do you not know I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus responds (John 19:11); “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” Governments, police, and security, all act real tough and scary, but the only authority they have is because God has given it. In comparison to God – they are powerless. God could destroy or remove them in an instant. God is bigger, God is stronger than any silly, weak security police system. Even when they act so aggressive and intimidating – remember according to God, they are nothing and have no power.
I like to picture David standing next to Goliath – who towers over him. Behind Goliath is this massive round shape that makes Goliath look tiny – it is God’s big toe! God can crush evil powers without effort, and the fact that evil has any power at all is only because “the God of peace” has allowed it (for a time), but “ will soon crush Satan under our feet.” (Romans 16:20)
3) Bad things happen to good people so God will be glorified.
In John 9:3 Jesus passes by a man who was blind from birth. He was asked whose fault it was. Jesus answered: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Your father has done nothing wrong. In fact, he has done what he is supposed to do: tell everyone everywhere about Jesus! You should be VERY proud that your father was arrested – it is a sign of his obedience to Jesus’ command that we preach HIM and glorify HIM among all peoples. God is going to use this difficult circumstance for His own glory.
We don’t know how long prison will last, we don’t even know how this will end for us – but that really doesn’t matter – what matters is that God gets the glory in how your father acts, reacts, and in what Jesus does. When you pray for your dad, pray that he continues to act, speak, and react in such a way that the works of God are displayed in him.
4) Our God is a God of deliverance.
In Daniel 3:17 three Hebrew young men are to be thrown into the fiery furnace. They tell the king: “Our God WILL deliver us.” They knew that God is ALWAYS able to deliver. This is true for you – Our God can get your dad out of prison. This is an easy thing for Jesus. I am asking, trusting, and believing with you that God will do this soon.
“But…” the three Hebrew young men go on, “…even if he does NOT deliver us, we still will not bow to idols…” God delivers His children usually in one of three ways:
- Escape – He gets us out of difficult situations (Like the Apostles in Acts 5:19 and Peter in Acts 12:10 being miraculously rescued from prison).
- Endurance – God helps us to persevere through difficult periods of prison and suffering (Like Joseph in prison for many years, Jeremiah in the bottom of the well, Paul spending several years in prison in Rome).
- Eternity – God takes us home to heaven where we are forever delivered from ALL evil – harm, pain, sadness, sickness, and loss. We don’t always get to choose how God delivers us (and of course it is natural to want ‘Escape’) but we do have this confidence: GOD ALWAYS DELIVERS! God always wins in the end! Our God WILL deliver us.
5) The Suffering your family is experiencing is normal.
What you as a family are experiencing (your dad, your mom, you as children) is the normal Christian life for all who radically follow Jesus. You are not special (either in the bad way – being picked on, or in the good way – being better than any one else). The Bible says in Philippians 1:29, “It has been granted (given) to you on behalf of Christ, not only to believe on His name, but also to suffer for His name.” And in 2 Timothy 3:12, “EVERYONE who desires to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will face persecution.
All through history, across every nation, men and women, moms and dads, boys and girls have suffered and are suffering for Jesus. You are not alone, and some have it much worse than you, much worse than your father. In the Holy Spirit you are connected in an intimate way to a vast army of Jesus followers who have been given the privilege of suffering for Jesus. Welcome to the family! The family who loves Jesus so much it is an honor to suffer for His sake!
When the apostles were imprisoned and beaten they “…rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer,” (Acts 5:41) and they responded by continuing publicly and privately to teach and preach that Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 5:42). Suffering made them bolder, they did not cease proclaiming Jesus everywhere. Jesus evidently looks at your family, loves you deeply, trusts you fully, so much that He says, “Look at them! They are worthy to suffer for my name. I trust them to continue to teach and preach about me!” Oh, how much the Heavenly Father loves and trusts you!
6) It is the devil you should be angry at, not the people who put your dad in prison.
In Luke 23:34 when Jesus is being crucified, he says: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.” Really, the people who put your dad in prison (and the people group and country they represent) are not angry at him, they are angry at Jesus – even if they don’t know it. All false religions deny that Jesus is God, and the devil (often without the people realizing it) stirs them up to attack anyone who believes that Jesus is God and super exalts Him as the only way of salvation.
When people do hurtful things to us, it is important to recognize that the source of their anger is fear – the fear of the devil because he knows Jesus is winning and he hates Jesus. When we understand this, it helps us to direct our anger at the devil and not at the precious people we live among. Always remember the people you live among are precious to Jesus. They are victims of the devil’s lies. We forgive them because they don’t really know what they are doing, they don’t realize they are actually fighting against the spirit of Jesus in us – this is a fight they cannot win. We love them because even though pain comes through their hands, we realize that the source of their evil actions is the devil.
7) Your father wants you to go on living and in fact to have joy!
In John 19:26-27 when Jesus was in great trouble in the cross, He was most concerned about His friends and family. Your father (whether he is taken from you for a short time or long) wants you to live well and to love life. Sometimes we feel guilty about laughing or doing normal life and fun things when our father is in prison. We can feel guilty about laughing, visiting friends, playing football, and moving on in life in a normal way – when inside we know our father is gone and life is not normal.
What your father wants is for you to live free and he would be most pleased if you continue to embrace life and find joy despite your sorrow. There are times to cry and miss him and grieve, but Joy and Sorrow are not opposites. They can go together. You can carry the sorrow of missing your father AND the joy of living and laughing in life – and this is not hypocritical. Laughter and Tears are brothers. They are intended to live together. Perfect, sinless, eternal Jesus both laughed and cried.
When we laugh ,when we continue the normal activities of life despite living in abnormal conditions, when we laugh along with our sorrow we are sending two messages: 1) We are telling God that as much as we love our earthly father, we love our Heavenly Father even more and we trust Him. This delights Him. When we praise Jesus despite our troubles, when it costs us to praise Him and trust Him (when we bring sacrifices with shouts of joy – Psalm 27:6) we please our Heavenly Father incredibly. 2) We communicate to the devil that he is a loser, that he NEVER can win. Jesus will win, the devil will lose, and we are celebrating the end result even while we are in the middle of the struggle with much pain. You will most honor your Heavenly and earthly fathers by living well and laughing with joy – along with your sorrow.
Jesus loves you so much, and your father loves you so much. In his prison, he is not thinking about his ministry or even his friends or the people he has brought to Jesus. Do you know who your dad spends most of his time thinking about? YOU! Your father is praying for you, and remembering all the good times you had together, and laughing at all the funny things you did when you were small, and wondering how you are doing in school, and hoping you remembered to brush your teeth this morning. He misses his wife and his children more than anything.
Your father wants you to know again that you are more important to him than any other human or any work that he has done. He loves you, loves you, loves you. You are his pride and joy. He may not be able to see you or hug you or even speak with you, but his spirit sends a constant message. Your father says “I love you, I love you, I love you. You are my beloved child. In you I am WELL pleased.”
These are challenging days (faith never denies facts), but you WILL make it. You will make it because God is good and He loves you, because your father and mother love you, because your uncles and aunts and friends around the world love you and are praying for you.
Your father wants you to LIVE and LOVE and LAUGH. You will best please him by mixing your joy into your sorrow, carrying them both and trusting Jesus to help you. Keep doing the normal things of life (knowing this is what your father would want, doing them even for him) and in the quiet times when you most miss him and feel his absence, it is OK to cry. Perhaps in those times, write him a letter in your journal, tell him the things you cannot tell anyone else. Tell him the simple things, tell him the serious things. Pray for him (and your mom) and then rest in the knowledge that your father loves you very, very, much and that he loves Jesus so much that this suffering of separation (that you all share) is worth it because Jesus is worth it.
We are so very proud of you. We love you so very much.
Dick and Jennifer Brogden