by BJ Rudge, Ph. D.
Writing to Christians who were facing persecution under Roman emperor Nero, the Apostle Peter reminded them that trials are a way to test the genuineness of their faith:
“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 1:7).
The truth of this verse was evident during the life of Kayla Mueller. You may know that Kayla was an American humanitarian aid worker who, in August of 2013, was taken captive by ISIS while in Syria. Until her reported death in February 2015, Kayla had to endure torture, verbal abuse, forced slave labor, and repeated rapes by ISIS’ top leader. Despite these unimaginable trials, Kayla never wavered in her faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, recent reports by other hostages who escaped or were released by ISIS document how she remained strong in her faith. As reported by ABC News,
“… her fellow hostages say she never surrendered hope, she selflessly put the welfare of fellow captives above her own and she even stood up to executioner ‘Jihadi John’ to defend her Christian faith.”
Kayla’s steadfast commitment to Jesus Christ should be a challenge to all of us to determine the strength of our own faith. Yes, we will most likely never have to experience what she went through, but when the trials of life come our way, will we have the same strength she did to stand up and proclaim the name of Jesus Christ.
The book of Hebrews reminds us that a great cloud of witnesses surround us (Hebrews 12:1). One of those witnesses is Kayla Mueller. While her race is over, as she is now in the presence of her Lord and Savior, our race is still going on. The question before us is what witness will we leave when our race ends. I pray that like Kayla we will be a witness to other believers to stand strong in their faith.
As you read the following excerpts of a letter that Kayla sent her parents while in captivity, ask yourself this question, “How strong is my faith?”
I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator b/c literally there was no else, + by God + by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall. I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it. I pray each day that if nothing else, you have felt a certain closeness + surrender to God as well + have formed a bond of love + support amongst one another.
None of us could have known it would be this long but know I am also fighting from my side in the ways I am able + I have a lot of fight left inside of me. I am not breaking down + I will not give in no matter how long it takes. I wrote a song some months ago that says, “The part of me that pains the most also gets me out of bed, w/out your hope there would be nothing left.” aka_The thought of your pain is the source of my own, simultaneously the hope of our reunion is the source of my strength. Please be patient, give your pain to God. I know you would want me to remain strong. That is exactly what I am doing. Do not fear for me, continue to pray as will I + by God’s will we will be together soon.