By Nahgmeh Abedini | Sep 24, 2013 09:24 am
Thursday marks one year since Iran imprisoned my husband, Pastor Saeed Abedini, for his Christian faith. When the Iranian Revolutionary Guard arrested Saeed without warning and took him to the notorious Evin Prison, I could not have imagined the journey God had planned for us — a journey still without a finish line in sight.
The Empty Seat in Our Home
All I can remember about those first days are tear-soaked eyes and indescribable anxiety and grief. Evenings consisted of me holding my seven-year-old daughter and five-year-old son as they cried themselves to sleep asking for their daddy. Saeed’s seat in our family was painfully empty at Christmas, Easter, our wedding anniversary, and each of the birthdays.
Saeed spent his own birthday in solitary confinement, bleeding and in agony due to beatings he had endured when prison guards tried to force him to deny his faith and return to Islam.
A Good, Unwanted Trial
I had fallen into deep despair, fearing the unknown. No friend, parent, or doctor could help me. In desperation, I questioned Jesus and plead that he take this trial from me. He gently whispered, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). He promised to use this journey for his glory if I would trust him.
So little by little, I opened my hands and let go of all of expectations and submitted my future to God. As I lay broken before his feet, letting go of all control, the peace of God that surpasses all understanding filled my heart and mind through Christ Jesus, just has he had promised (Philippians 4:7).
Gladness in Weakness
I did not know then, nor do I know now, where God would lead us in all of this. But one thing has become clear: no matter how difficult the journey, no matter what news comes, even in the face of eight years of beating and torture, we are called by God to embrace suffering gladly.
This suffering reveals my weakest parts. But in my weakness, he is strong. I am refreshed by living water when I run into Jesus’s embrace. It is in walking with Jesus through the darkness that I taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).
Rejoicing in Suffering
Over the last year, I have learned that there is meaning in Paul’s instruction to take pleasure in God, even and especially in suffering. Rejoicing in suffering creates in me a deeper hunger for God, a hunger that draws me closer to him.
I understand now how Paul could say, “Most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. . . . I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
The Desire of Our Hearts
In Jesus, I had clarity to see that God was using my present suffering for the spread of the gospel. I have seen the Lord use Saeed’s imprisonment to give Saeed and myself the true desire of our hearts, which is to see Jesus preached to the entire world, especially to Muslims, a people Saeed and I love so very much.
Our suffering has provided a platform to share about Christ all over the world, even through secular media broadcasted to millions in Iran. At the United Nations Human Rights Council, appealing for Saeed’s release, I shared the gospel with representatives from over 100 countries.
A Minister for the Prisoners
This journey has also allowed Saeed to spread the gospel inside the prison. Members of the Iranian Diaspora have told me how they have heard from former Evin prisoners that Saeed had been showing the love of Christ to his fellow prisoners.
Now I can say with confidence that “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Saeed and I always asked God for opportunities to share the gospel with the nations. We never anticipated it would be this way, but God has graciously heard and answered our prayers.
What Can You Do for Saeed?
Though I do not yet see a finish line to our journey, I will continue to rejoice in the Lord as he uses our suffering for good. I will continue to pray for Saeed’s release and the freedom of all Christians being persecuted and imprisoned for their faith.Last Thursday was a day of prayer for Saeed. But let’s continue to join his wife in crying out to God that he might be reunited with his family.