All are not called to confess Christ upon the scaffold, but everyone ought to have the spirit to endure it. ~ D’Aubigne

I have recently finished a few books on martyrs – Fair Sunshine, Secret Believers, and The Heavenly Man. The first is about 16th century Covenanters in Scotland. The second is a glimpse at what is happening in Muslim nations. The third is about the hardships endured in China even now.

I must admit that after reading the other two, I found Secret Believers to be somewhat disappointing. Well written, but the spirit of those suffering is markedly different from those in China, or the earlier church. The muslim underground church looks, by this account at least, to be deeply westernized. There is an assumption that buildings are needed, and programs for women and children, and proper, structured training. Contrasted with the booming home churches in China, it struck me as odd.

The larger contrast for me though, was the attitude towards suffering. The Chinese church seems to welcome it, and embrace it. Certainly, the Covenanters were full of the glory of their Lord near their deaths, and wrote of their eager acceptance of the trial they were about to endure. Upon watching her husband’s brains get blown out, John Brown’s wife was asked by his murderer “What do you think of your fine husband now?” Her brave answer was “I ever thought much good of him, and more than ever now.” A fellow covenanter, James Frazer said “There is a large allowance for sufferers for righteousness; but many live not upon their allowance, and therefore look so ill upon it.” The underground Christians in Secret Believers seem so very afraid of suffering, and struggle to find the good in it. How very much like ourselves….

It is not as though I speak through any suffering of my own. My version of suffering is nothing more than a chronic headache, and a string of sovereign car problems… (Brad and I have both had fenderbenders in the last few weeks – not fun to sort out). I do not know how I would fare amidst real persecution. I would hope that I could cling to my Lord, and be comforted deeply by Him (2 Cor. 1:3-6) I pray that is true of all my sufferings, big or small….

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. susan
    Jun 05, 2008 @ 20:06:29

    my first thoughts while reading this:

    i wonder how much of a difference culture makes in a reaction to suffering. Okay, that already sounds like an excuse, hmm. should i continue and sound like a dork? SURE! hope you don’t mind my blabbering thoughts:

    when i think “muslim believers in far off countries”, i think of women that were not allowed to learn, etc and in those cases programs for women and children make sense, right? Not that they need formal buildings, or training, in a western way. But more because these are people fresh and ready to learn, but they need a lot of assistance, they need teachers and lessons and groups drawing them into a society that once was not open to them.

    (my friend witnessed the joy in a group of muslim women that she was teaching, as they thought of libraries being opened to them and the chance to learn. and in most muslim countries where Christian ‘aid’ workers are, they are there providing learning centres for these women that have not had any personal freedoms for years.)

    maybe. just thoughts.

    it could be the same for Chinese believers. Culture for them is very strongly based in strength of character and right knowing… if that makes sense… so perhaps for them, they understand rightly the glory of living and dying for Christ because this noble idea is much more prominent in how they have been raised???

    these are crazy-su-had-a-hard-day thoughts, so they aren’t worth much. but i thought i’d get some words out anyhow! 🙂

    i concur with your last paragraph. i don’t know anything of suffering.

    HEY when are we doing that card night for missionaries??????
    love you friend.


  2. Nicole
    Jun 09, 2008 @ 13:18:58

    Susan, Raquel agrees with you, so I guess I’m either on my own, or I suck at explaining myself… 🙂

    I don’t think programs, in and of themselves are bad, I just don’t think they need to be the focus of meeting someone’s needs…. If the past couple of months in my own life are any indication, I think there are a great many ways to take care of those around us, without structure. I just felt that there was alot of concern in this book for protecting the visible gathering place that struck me as odd, in light of the other books I had just finished. Does that make sense?

    We can make cards in the next couple weeks – need a couple days to breathe first 🙂


  3. susan
    Jun 09, 2008 @ 14:44:36

    yeah hunny, i understand your need to breathe! 🙂 i hope you get it!!

    I see your point about buildings, structure and all that jazz. i agree with you too, about not needing structure to meet people’s needs. i just feel like the different cultures of the world probably have varying understandings of suffering and how it is appropriate to deal with suffering. 🙂

    love you friend.


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