Today, January 16, 2016, Pastor Saeed Abedini and several other American detainees were released from Iranian captivity. A deal was cut between our country and Iran – a prisoner exchange – which is not the way I would have done it if I were making decisions, but I’m not and so be it.
Regardless of how it was accomplished, this is a direct answer to prayer. My friend, Tina, and I have been praying and fasting over this matter for months now. Others have been praying just as hard, and organizations like the American Center for Law and Justice have been petitioning and demanding his release for years.
A friend’s son slipped into eternity last night. He must have felt imprisoned in his own skin, and chose to end a life of pain and agony. I empathize with this young man because the cold fingers of despair have gripped my heart at various low points in my life, luring me to yield to the same unthinkable temptation. But for the grace of God, my loved ones might still be mourning a desperate decision based on circumstances that got oh so much better just because someone convinced me to hang in there.
Shackles. That’s what held both these sufferers captive. Visible or not, tangible or not, these fetters eat into the skin and infect the victim’s insides with rot and disease. In Saeed’s case, physical confinement held an American citizen hostage for over three years; in the latter situation, a despondent teen succumbed to whatever mental torture drove him to a desperate, irreversible act.
My soul wants to rejoice with Saeed, even as it mourns with my friend. More importantly, my spirit wants to cry out to others who are in captivity not to give up before the miracle. The miracle may be a dramatic, life changing improvement - an unshackling, if you will. It may show up as clouds that shape themselves into an angel or a cross. It may be nothing more than a sunrise breaking over a new day, providing opportunity to better one’s circumstances.
Or it may be something a Jewish carpenter did two millennia ago that people are still talking about today.
No matter what form the unshackling takes, it’s worth waiting for.
“God found Gideon in a hole. He found Joseph in a prison.
He found Daniel in a lion’s den.
He has a curious habit of showing up in the midst of trouble,
not the absence.
Where the world sees failure, God sees future.
Next time you feel unqualified to be used by God remember this,
he tends to recruit from the pit, not the pedestal.” - Jon Acuff
not the absence.
Check out Matthew West's Hello, My Name Is
A postscript: I know a young person who was upset over his grandmother's passing. He was so distraught that it occurred to him to take his own life so he could go and join her. A wise counselor advised him, since he was still young and had barely begun his life, a better plan would be to honor her by "living a little extra for Grandma."