If you are on social media at all, or even on the internet, you can’t help but see stories on ISIS. You can’t turn on your television without those horrible videos of the man all in black and another man kneeling in an orange jumpsuit. To be honest, lately I’ve tried to avoid these stories because they make me feel helpless and hopeless and defeated.
I did open the latest update on ISIS shared by a woman who knows missionaries and aid workers working in this area that are in real danger. As I read about them systematically coming to Christians’ doors and asking the children to deny Christ and then killing them when they didn’t, it literally made me feel sick. While I marveled at the faith of a child to look death in the eye and stand firm, my heart was breaking for the parents that were watching this unfold.
As I walked my dog today, my sunglasses hid the tears in my eyes as I prayed for these dear people – these people who have watched their children die for not denying Jesus. As a mother, I can’t even imagine what they are going through. It rips at my heart.
So, I pray. I pray even though I have no idea what to say or even how to pray.
I can try to imagine what it is like for my brothers and sisters in Christ, but in my middle class, ordinary life, it’s almost impossible to grasp this kind of grief and horror. To be honest, I don’t really want to try to imagine too hard because it is too painful. My mind shies away from trying to put myself in a mother’s place across the globe watching her child die, waiting in terror, wondering why she is still alive when her child is dead.
As I prayed and cried for these suffering Christians – my brothers and sisters – a world away, I felt a nudge in my spirit asking for the impossible, asking me to pray for the people in ISIS.
Everything in me rebelled. I argued with God – the people who NEEDED prayer were the ones that were suffering NOT the men who were creating the suffering. These men are evil personified. They do not deserve mercy. They deserve to die. Anyone who would kill children, be cruel enough to do it in front of their parents and then leave the parents alive – how can I possibly pray for someone like that?
God kept pushing me to pray for them, so finally I did. I have to admit I did it under protest because I really, really didn’t want to.
Then God brought to my mind the apostle Paul.
You know, the guy who, before the Damascus road, went around killing Christians – the one who dragged men and women from their homes. The one who hunted down Christians with a zeal that was frightening in its intensity.
The same Paul, who once he was changed by an encounter with God, went on to evangelize a good chunk of the Gentile world. That Paul.
Then God gently asked me a question. Is this life the only thing that matters? He reminded me that the children who died at the hands of ISIS won in the end. The worst ISIS could do was kill their bodies (as awful as that is to think about), but there is more to the story than the horror of their deaths because Christ’s sacrifice on the cross defeated death. Those children are in heaven now. Their deaths a momentary tragedy in an eternity of joy and peace.
I don’t mean to make light of these children’s deaths. It is awful. It is evil. But it isn’t the end because after Christ’s death on the cross there was a resurrection.
Those children who so bravely refused to deny Jesus with literally their last breath, are now basking in His presence. “Oh death where is your sting? Oh grave where is your victory?”
ISIS thinks it is winning, but in reality, they lose because while they can kill the body, they cannot kill the soul.
I think God asked me to pray for ISIS because it tested my faith to its limit because I had to believe more in God’s goodness, His grace, and His ability to change people than I believed in man’s capacity for evil.
I had to believe that God was bigger than ISIS, and sometimes, I forget that because the evil staring me in the face seems so monstrous.
God is bigger than ISIS. He is big enough to change those men, to save them if He so chooses. Their plans and their hatred are no match for God’s power.
You see, even though satan wins momentary victories here on earth, I’ve read the end of the Book – and we win.