Imprisoned for her faith

Marie Durand by Simonetta Carr; Christian Biographies for Young Readers; Reformation Heritage Books; cloth; 64 pages; © 2015

Marie DurandWrongful incarceration is a hot topic of current interest, but few people realize how many Christians have been imprisoned (often without even the pretense of a trial) for their faith. Arrested as a young woman, Marie Durand remained in prison for thirty-eight years.

This remarkable woman, who kept the faith through decades of imprisonment and difficulties beyond, is the subject of the latest Christian Biographies for Young Readers book by Simonetta Carr.

Marie Durand was born in 1711 into a family who secretly taught their children the Protestant faith. When she was seven, her mother was arrested, and her father was arrested when she was seventeen. Marie’s own arrest curtailed her plans to marry. Imprisoned in a tower that allowed snow or rain and disease-bearing mosquitoes free entry, she and the other women and children suffered greatly. Marie became a leader and encourager, despite her frequent bouts of what may have been malaria. When Marie finally was released, she discovered her home had been plundered and she had to pay her cousins to reclaim her property. She died less than ten years later.

As always, Simonetta skillfully distills complex history into an understandable narrative. The beautiful illustrations add visual interest to Simonetta’s engaging story about a faithful woman who lived for her Lord during a lifetime of wrongful incarceration.

The above book review by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 42 of the August 26, 2015, issue of Christian Renewal.

 

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Already delivered, Psalm 54

cotton ball cloudsIn today’s culture of death, when evil men persecute Christians and sin remains deeply woven into society’s fabric, consider David’s pleas and praise in Psalm 54.

As he so often does, David begins the psalm by begging God to hear his prayer:

O God, save me by your name,
    and vindicate me by your might.
O God, hear my prayer;
    give ear to the words of my mouth (Psalm 54:1-2, ESV)

He then states the reason he cries to God.

For strangers have risen against me;
    ruthless men seek my life;
    they do not set God before themselves (verse 3, ESV).

Christians today all over the world and in our own country are beset by ruthless men and strangers who rise up against them. These enemies have no regard for the God who made them and created all things. They do not look to God or follow his commands.

But believers acknowledge their dependence on the Lord and his sustaining power.

Behold, God is my helper;
    the Lord is the upholder of my life.
He will return the evil to my enemies;
    in your faithfulness put an end to them (verses 4-5, ESV).

Christians realize they can do nothing without God equipping them. He upholds us physically through each breath and heartbeat, emotionally through each trauma and grief, and spiritually through each perplexity and doubt.

And he does not allow evil to triumph ultimately. He will put an end to the enemies of Christians, who are also his enemies.

When we see this happen, we can praise God. We may praise him as individuals, but we encourage other believers when we share accounts of God’s deliverance. And our appropriate response is a thankful spirit in corporate worship.

With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you;
    I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good.
For he has delivered me from every trouble,
    and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies (verses 6-7, ESV).

David frequently reviewed the many ways God had delivered him in the past. He wrote these words long before his final cold and weak days, while he still fought and sang with youthful vigor. In fact, he wrote this while fleeing for his life from Saul. Despite the present danger, David considered that God had already delivered him from every trouble.

The Psalms often convey God’s deliverance as if it’s already accomplished. How would it change your outlook if you ended each prayer by confessing God’s resolution of your problem?

We may not always see the resolution to every problem or persecution in this life, but from God’s infinite perspective it’s already a done deal. Praise his name!

Olive tree, Psalm 52

Image from Wikimedia commons

Looking back on this past year, do you find it depressing to think about the tough times? Try focusing on how God got you through them.

David knew persecution. He was God’s anointed, the appointed successor to Saul. But he was continually on the run for his life.

One of the most tragic episodes during his years of flight is recorded in 1 Samuel 21 & 22, When Doeg, the Edomite, reported David’s location to Saul and killed 85 priests at Saul’s command. Saul also ordered the destruction of an entire city–men, women, children, and infants, as well as livestock were killed with the sword.

Knowing this background information increases our understanding of Psalm 52, written after Doeg’s report to Saul, and presumably after the deaths of the priests and people.

How can one make sense of such a tragedy? David begins by acknowledging that although the evil man may boast, God’s steadfast love still endures.

Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?
    The steadfast love of God endures all the day.
Your tongue plots destruction,
    like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit.
You love evil more than good,
    and lying more than speaking what is right. Selah
You love all words that devour,
    O deceitful tongue (Psalm 52:1-4, ESV).

Evil people plot destruction and love deceit. Yet God will not permit evil to triumph in the end (5-7, ESV):

But God will break you down forever;
    he will snatch and tear you from your tent;
    he will uproot you from the land of the living. Selah
The righteous shall see and fear,
    and shall laugh at him, saying,
“See the man who would not make
    God his refuge,
but trusted in the abundance of his riches
    and sought refuge in his own destruction!”

David excels at descriptive language. He follows these vivid depictions of the evil man and God’s judgment against him with a beautiful image.

But I am like a green olive tree
    in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
    forever and ever.
I will thank you forever,
    because you have done it.
I will wait for your name, for it is good,
    in the presence of the godly (8-9, ESV).

The one who trusts God, even in what appears to be senseless destruction, is like a verdant olive tree. Believers firmly rooted in God’s love worship together. In the face of great adversity, they are able to live in thankful patience. They trust that God is good and he will manifest his love in his perfect time.

We’ve all had struggles during this past year, but God’s steadfast love sustains his children through every trial and tragedy. Trust him to be with you in the new year.