Each month in the mail, I receive newsletters from The Voice of the Martyrs. The issues from December 2012 and last month, February 2013, particularly pressed on my “family” nerve. Actually, lots of things pinch on this nerve lately as I think about my still-young marriage and baby coming any day now.
December’s issue was about a woman in Iraq whose husband was kidnapped, tortured, and killed for his faith in the spring of 2012. She was widowed and left with three children. And as if that grief wasn’t enough, her husband’s parents blamed her for his death, saying that “her support of his evangelistic work was responsible for his kidnapping and murder.” They then threw her and the children out into the streets. Yet these were the words she wanted to pass along to married women in the U.S. just a couple months after her husband’s death:
Women should be brave and allow their husbands to fulfill God’s will. We should not keep them by our sides, but release them for ministry.
Yes, I typed her words, but I can’t say that her words are 100% my words yet. It’s a fierce battle, as this selfish love doesn’t die very well. But this widow didn’t just say these words in one moment of triumph. She learned them. In the daily risks, in the daily dying to self and living to Christ with her husband, in the daily releasing of her husband for ministry.
Last month’s issue gave a short account about King Constantin Brancoveanu, his wife, and his four sons. After being captured by the Turkish sultan’s men, the sultan promised to pardon the king and his sons from death if one of the conditions they met was to “deny the Christian faith and convert to Islam.” Here is what took place next:
But the king stood firm. “I will never abandon the Christian faith … I will not worship in your mosques, neither I nor my children.” He then turned to his sons and said, “My beloved, be strong in faith. We have lost all things. Let us not lose our souls as well.”
The sultan ordered the sons to be killed first. After the first three were beheaded, the king’s fourth son, 16-year-old Matthew, wavered at the sight of the blood and hid near his mother.
Seeing his fear, the king told him, “Follow your brothers. Do not deny Christ.”
Gaining strength from his father’s words, Matthew put his head on the block and said, “Strike.”
Before marriage and pregnancy, I might have soared with inspiration after reading this. But now … it kills me. It’s so much more personal. I can’t imagine how the queen felt, watching her sons being killed, watching her husband’s final moments. And I feel my own cowardice very keenly. Do I really see Christ as He is — the risen, conquering Prince of glory? Do I treasure Him above life and everything in it? Do I believe that He is truly all in all, even for my children? Is He better than life, not only for me but for my husband and children?
I can’t stand in one moment alone. I have to make these decisions in the small and mundane before I can make them in the furnace. To learn to live like this, one little decision after another, and to encourage my husband and teach my child the treasure that Jesus Christ truly is.