Martyrs

Not long ago a friend told me the following story. She had been falsely accused of sexual sin, in a strict religious community, in her youth. She spent her teenaged years under a cloud of scrutiny, suspicion, and self-doubt. She was ostracized by the “good people” and later on she even was rejected as a marriage candidate by a suitor’s parents, because of the old rumors.

Later on, one of this woman’s friends actually did the thing she had been accused of, more or less. When she heard about that, she did not want the friend to go through what she had gone through. She wanted her to repent in peace and privacy, and to be quickly healed and restored. So she prayed the following prayer: “Lord, please accept my innocent suffering for the healing of my friend.” Since that day, she has been able to let go of her anger and her bewildered sorrow, over what she missed out on and what she suffered. She feels that her suffering has become purposeful, retroactively, and that it is now her job to enjoy her life in thankfulness that she was able to benefit her friend.

I pressed her a little on what she meant by this prayer, but her responses were simple. Evidently she takes it literally, saying that “I feel this offering is actually the offering of the substance of one’s soul which has been pressed out through suffering, and this offering is accepted by the Lord, who poured his soul out unto death for everyone in the world.” Later in the conversation she told me that, “God is not the lord of death, so if you offer him your soul, he does not respond by giving death. Instead, he multiplies the life that you offer him and gives that life to others and even back to you.”

It’s hard for me to imagine this kind of thing, but I think it is relevant given the surge of new martyrs in the Middle East in our times, and especially in the past few weeks. We ought to pour our soul out in support for these brothers and sisters, some of them children, in their time of trial. My simple prayer, patterned after my friend’s prayer, is this: “Lord I offer you my life in this moment, for the strength and joy of those who are suffering for your name.” At the same time, there is joy in knowing that God, who never condones or causes such abuse, can redeem even their grief, because he brings life even out of death.

Memory Eternal to the named and to the nameless among those who have died for the faith of Christ.

Swift salvation to those who suffer in the Lord.

Peace to all men of goodwill.

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