David Limbaugh offers a wonderful summary of a talk given by two women who were imprisoned for their faith. I remember when they were first arrested, and wrote about it here. It seems that since their ordeal, they have written and spoken widely about how they were transformed by the suffering.
The first week, they were horrified and prayed to be released. But soon, they came to see their presence in prison as an opportunity to witness to other prisoners, many of whom were prostitutes and addicts and “so hopeless and sad.” Maryam and Marziyeh prayed for them and saw God work in their lives as they cried and confessed their sins. It became “like a church for us,” said Marziyeh.
Maryam said there was only one day out of the 259 during which she couldn’t feel the presence of God. “That was the worst experience I ever had in my life,” she said. “I was so sad. I didn’t know what to do.”
They ministered to the other women, grew close to them, and took them to their hearts -- so much so that it became a new home for them.
I find it moving that they were ambivalent about being released. Marziyeh related in their book: “Though my body was free, my soul and spirit were still with our precious friends suffering terrible injustice inside Evin Prison. This thought made it impossible for me to enjoy our new situation. I felt strangely indifferent to our liberation.” They consider it an honor to have experienced a little of Christ’s suffering by being imprisoned in his name. “It was important for us to suffer,” they said.
Much of their strength came from their solidarity with one another
At any time, they could have secured their own release by simply renouncing their Christian faith, but they each emphatically refused, saying, “We will never renounce our faith.” Marziyeh told one Muslim prisoner who said they were “silly” for not renouncing their faith: “Our insistence on our faith is not out of stubbornness. … I have lived with God for many years. … He is my all. We are inseparable. My life has no value without him. I love God so much that denying him would be denying my own existence. How could I ever deny something that is in every cell of my body? I would rather spend the rest of my life in prison if that’s what it takes to stay close to him. I would rather be killed than kill the spirit of Christ within me.”
That should encourage us to pray for those suffering so deeply for their faith now -- and for all intentions. Prayer is powerful, and it's very hard to persevere alone. I'm delighted that these young women are sharing the message they've learned.
They closed their book with this: “We had no idea what the Lord had in mind for us. For all the heartache we have experienced on this journey, we wouldn’t have missed it for anything. It has been our honor to serve Christ in this way, to take up our cross and follow Him faithfully anywhere He leads us.”