In book 3 of The Hunger Games, The Mockingjay, one of the characters goes through a form of torture called mental hijacking. The enemy uses his memories and twists them, tapping into his innermost fears. Once this character is physically rescued, he still has to deal with the aftermath of mental confusion and fear. He no longer knows what memories are real or distorted. The way he copes in order to find his way to reality is to make a statement to those he trusts around him and then to ask the question: real or not real? The response he receives helps him unlock truth from lies. I finished The Hunger Games trilogy the other night and am feeling a little wrecked. Overall, the ending has a feeling of hopelessness and despair, of being caught in a fear of the future. The only thing we're given to hang onto is the good we see in other people and to recount that good to ourselves in an effort to keep going on. But is that really enough?
I can't help but contemplate the affect of reading The Hunger Games versus other books that tell true and similar stories of those who've been tortured, drugged, beaten, and pawns in the hands of unjust governments. Of Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand. Of Daughters of Hope: Stories of Witness & Courage in the Face of Persecution by Kay Marshall Storm. Of the magazine The Voice of the Martyrs. I remember being astonished by the feeling of hope and even joy recounted by women who'd suffered unspeakable woes in Daughters of Hope. How could this be? How how how can someone go through such miseries and still keep living? Let alone feel joy and hope in the world?
Today is Good Friday. When we remember the ultimate torture of Christ. Physical, mental, spiritual, it was all laid on Him. He took all the atrocities we've ever committed against Him and our fellow man and bore them all the way to Hell and back. Why? 1 John 4:14-18 gives us a clue:
The Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
Jesus became the Savior so that we wouldn't have to be captured by fear. So that we wouldn't have to fear anything that anyone could do to us because the ultimate fear has been taken away: fear of God's righteous wrath because of our sins. Instead we can abide (what a beautiful word) in Him. And when we truly abide in Him the result is love.
When Christians suffer, we have the choice to suffer distinctly. Whether the trial is a personal crisis, physical illness, or at the hands of an evil regime, there's still the possibility to cast out fear through the love of God and have hope and joy. I'm not in any way marginalizing the suffering. I'm just saying there's the possibility of living, really living, in the fullness of Christ.
And so today, of all days, I remind myself of reality. I remind myself of the truth:
My name is Danielle. I'm a child of God. Jesus died so I could abide in Him. And when I abide, fear is overcome. I can have love and joy and peace in any adversity. Thank you Jesus for bearing all my sins in your body and redeeming me to be your own. Help me live in the light of this truth everyday.
Real or not real?