EMPTINESS AND FILLING
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
Ron Boyd-MacMillan writes in his epic volume, Faith That Endures:
I remember interviewing a former Muslim extremist in Egypt. He had converted to Christ in his early twenties and led a Church for Muslim converts. This is illegal in Egypt, and the fellowship was betrayed to the police. Soon this young man found himself in prison. He was tortured. An electric cattle prod was pushed into his mouth. He was whipped and hung from the ceiling with his hands tied behind his back. But all this paled into insignificance compared to what other prisoners called “the experience.” He was pushed into a stone box, a cube about five feet square. No light. No latrine. And he was left there for a month, food being passed through a grate every few days. Most prisoners went mad as a result of “the experience”—but not him.
He found Christ there, and the words he used to describe his experience are still the most brilliant description of the process of how persecution actually delivers more of God:
“In great suffering, you discover a different Jesus than you do in normal life. Normally we are able to hide from ourselves who we really are and what we are really like. The ego is well defended. But pain changes all that. Pain and suffering bring up to the surface all the weak points of your personality. You are too weak to mount the usual defenses, and you just have to gaze at what you are really like. I was a wreck in that cell. I was reduced to tears all the time. Crying, weeping, sobbing, and wailing in the never-changing utter darkness.
“I came face-to-face with how awful I really was. I saw all the horrible things I had done, all the horrible things I was. I kept seeing myself again and again. But just as I was about to collapse into complete despair and self-loathing—and probably die—an incredible realization burst into the cell like an exploding star. It was this: Jesus loved me even right then, as I sat in my own filth, weak, helpless and broken, empty, and sinful. Even in that state, He loved me, and Christ rushed in and filled me, and the filling was so great because I was so empty.”
RESPONSE: Today I realize that God can use persecution to draw people closer to Himself.
PRAYER: Thank You Lord that You fill us when we are truly empty. Help me not to hide my real condition from myself and before You.
1. Ron Boyd-MacMillan, Faith That Endures (Grand Rapids: Fleming Revell, 2006), p. 319-320.
Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS), a daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks. © 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission.