I accompanied a friend of mine who frequently leads pastor conferences in different parts of the world on one of his trips to western Africa a year and a half ago. We co-led conferences over the course of a week in various places and met a great many people, several of whom were deeply hungry for more of God in their lives.
While working for awhile at one pastor training site, my friend and I met a young woman named Halimar. Even though the conference we led was technically for pastors, Halimar wanted very much to attend and listen since what we were teaching largely revolved around the urgency of cultivating one’s relationship with God.
After we had been there a few days, we both noted Halimar’s deep love for the things of God and so we asked the site director about her history. He shared with us that Halimar had come from a wealthy Muslim family in a “Muslim only” part of the city. One night, after a friend of hers had shared with her about Jesus, Halimar chose to receive Jesus as her Lord and Savior.
When her husband heard about what she had done, he literally threw her out of the house (not even allowing her two small daughters to say goodbye). Not knowing what else could be done, Halimar went to her parents’ house. Her parents, particularly her father, were outraged. When her husband came to see if he could talk her out of “being a Christian”, her father met the man outside and, audible through an open window, said to him, “You know that you must now kill her.” “Kill her?” her husband asked. “Yes, you must kill my daughter.” And Halimar’s father let the man enter the house.
Although her husband only shouted at her to reject this “Christian way” and then stormed out without harming her physically, she felt that she was not safe in staying at her parents’ home. She left the next morning to go stay with a Christian friend on the other side of the city.
Over the next several weeks she attempted to return home, but her husband would not speak to her nor allow her to see the children. Weeks became months and, as of our visit, those months amounted to a year and a half. She continued to be denied visits with her children and was not given any form of support for her own material needs.
Nevertheless, during our short stay in her city, she sang joyfully from her heart her praise and thanksgiving for God’s love and goodness. In our brief conversations with her we noted her faithfulness even in the face of such severe rejection. I thought that it seemed rare to find such true devotion and love for God even when there was so much less to lose.
Halimar was now a pauper, having to work very difficult and menial jobs to earn what little she could for food. Though clearly a refined and intelligent lady, she was now an embarrassment for her parents. Though very much in love with her husband and desperately aching to see her children, she was an outcast from her family, utterly rejected by those called her family.
I naturally considered the extent of my own love for Him and wondered how profoundly am I convinced that God is not only the “Supreme Blesser” but is Himself the “Supreme Blessing.” I wondered if I could truly echo Psalm 73:25-26, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
I appreciated the power in this woman’s genuine devotion to God and sensed that she indeed grasped, at least in part, the treasure that relationship with God through Jesus truly is. Now I wonder if we as Christians in more privileged places in the world are truly grasping it. If so, what joy and peace must be filling our experience!
If we are not grasping it, then let us consider how truly wonderful is God’s love for us. Let us allow Him to wash us in that love, prying from our fingers if necessary those cheap counterfeits and imposters that have promised to bring us joy and peace but have utterly failed. Let us realize only He can grant us true joy and peace.
“The works of His hands are faithful and just; all His precepts are trustworthy. They are steadfast for ever and ever, done in faithfulness and uprightness. He provided redemption for His people; He ordained His covenant forever – holy and awesome is His name” (Psalm 111:7-9).