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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Happy (07/12/07)

TITLE: The Pain of Gain
By Joanne Sher


Zipporah, lying on the stone floor, opened her swollen eyes a slit. The room was unfamiliar, yet quite similar to the one she'd been dragged from right before she lost consciousness. She had no idea how long she had been out, nor when she'd entered this room. All she knew was it was daytime when she slipped away, and now it was night.

Looking up, she noticed a tile missing in the ceiling above her. The moon, a day or two from full, shone through it, giving the drab surroundings a ghoulish glow. She could see no other possible light source. But for that opening, the room would be pitch black.

Zipporah smiled at the light, reopening the scabbed-over gashes on the side of her face. She could feel blood dripping from her cheeks, but made no effort to stop its flow. Her arms felt like gelatin beside her. She did, however, mute her countenance a bit, impeding the further opening of her facial wounds.

Her grin changed to a grimace as she felt the tearing of flesh on her thighs. Shifting her eyes, she saw a guard cackling, a whip dripping with blood in his hand.

"Wiped that smile off your face, didn't I?" The guard's grin was eerily joyous, like a man who'd just received a promotion, or a bride on her wedding day. Zipporah's stomach turned and she closed her eyes.

How can a man derive such pleasure from my pain?

Willing herself to relax, she slowed her breathing and focused on her blessings. The glow of the moon. Happiness in her heart. The promise of paradise. The privilege of suffering for Him who gave up everything for her.

As she meditated, an image from God permeated her being. It began at the top of her head and coursed through her body until it was flowing through her very lifeblood.

Forever like the moon, the faithful witness in the sky.*

Opening her eyes again, she gazed up to bask in the ethereal glow. The corners of her mouth turned slowly upward and her body loosened.

"Get up." The guard's words rolled off his tongue like cream. He smirked, his eyes dancing.

Slowly and methodically, Zipporah rolled onto her left side and pushed herself to a sitting position, ever cognizant of the whip in her captor's hands. Every time she groaned or strained, his smile grew wider and his laugh deeper, until he was roaring with glee.

Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.*

"So, where is your Jesus now?"

Zipporah examined her captor's face, contemplating whether he expected an answer. Deciding the question was rhetorical, she smiled. He scowled, glaring at her peaceful countenance.

He lifted the whip above his head again, bringing it down with a snap, inches from Zipporah's feet. He chuckled as she flinched.

"Missed you by this much."

Breathing in deeply, she lifted her head and gazed up at the moon. The smile returned to her face.

"What - do you think you're going to escape out that hole in the ceiling?" He chuckled. "You can barely sit up, much less stand. Or is your Jesus going to charge in through there and save you? I have the power here, not Him."

You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.*

"You may not believe it, but you are going to die here, lady. Your death will be miserable and painful, and I am going to enjoy every moment of it."

"For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.*"

The pleasure in his eyes turned to hatred in an instant.

Zipporah focused her remaining strength on keeping the corners of her mouth turned up. As the whip tore at her flesh again and again, her body slumped to the ground. She slipped into the arms of her Savior with a smile, her ears echoing with the maniacal laughter of her captor.

And the moon shined red.


All scripture references, listed in order, are from the NIV
Psalm 89.37
Luke 6:25
John 19:11
Philippians 1:21

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This article has been read 3201 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Leigh MacKelvey07/19/07
Riveting writing! Made me gasp! How much people have suffered cruelty and pain for Christ! He must be who He says He is. Amen! Great job, masterfully written.
Lynda Lee Schab 07/19/07
Intense, graphic...powerful! Certainly packs a punch and makes the reader pause to consider that this scene is likely being played out all across the world at any given moment.
Expertly written piece. Well done.
Patty Wysong07/19/07
WoW!! Her happiness came from God and the thought of being with Him so soon. Excellent!!!
Dee Yoder 07/19/07
Oh my, the sorrow that Christians go through at the hands of people who are owned by Satan! Powerful story and an ending that gives a different meaning to the word "happy". Your title is thought-provoking, too.
Lynda Schultz 07/20/07
The is a powerful story. What threw me was the name, Zipporah I relate it to Old Testament, though I'm sure it was a common name on both sides of the cross just me trying to get my head around it.

Once again, it's just me, but the idea that she heard the laughter of the guard at the end was jarring. I wished she had heard the songs of angels or something!

But I think this is a great piece of writing, and a marvelous look into history and a world most of us will never have to experience.
Betty Castleberry07/20/07
What a profound message. This is bold and very well written. Five stars from me.
Verna Cole Mitchell 07/21/07
This is an awesome story of faith. The picture you painted is, truly, a frightening one. It makes me think, "How would I act in similar circumstances?"
The happy part though, for all of us, is knowing Jesus will be triumphant, and we will be with Him always.
Sharlyn Guthrie07/21/07
Gripping story, excellently written!

"Zipporah focused her remaining strength on keeping the corners of her mouth turned up." This demonstrates happiness as a choice. I love how she focused on Christ alone, the sole source of true happiness.
LaNaye Perkins07/22/07
You did such a great job in writing this! WOW!
Seema Bagai 07/22/07
Incredible. I could hardly breathe as I read. This is a powerful piece of writing.
Elizabeth Baize07/22/07
This is incredible! You created such a powerful contrast between the devilish glee of the captor and the quiet eternal joy of the captive. I also loved the way you used the moon to tie your story together.
Kristen Hester07/23/07
Wow. What a powerful story. It is vividly written. You are a master.

The fact that the MC feels happy at this time is amazing. Joy, I undertand. But happy? She is keeping her eyes on Him and having an eternal mind set for sure.
Joy Faire Stewart07/23/07
The descriptions are so vivid you can almost feel her pain. Excellent writing...very riveting.
Sara Harricharan 07/23/07
I found you! Wow. This gave me chills reading it. I think it is one of your best. I so want to 'hate' the guard, but Zipporah was so brave and true. Her character is something we can all aspire to. Amazing writing, I think you nailed 'happiness' right here. Excellent writing, friend! ^_^
Joanney Uthe07/23/07
Great job pulling the reader into the room. I love the strength of your MC and how you show her drawing that strength from Christ and the things that remind her of His presence. Oh that given the same situation, I would draw on that same strength!
Benjamin Graber07/23/07
Great story; this is a power presentation of the truth that in Christ even our pain can be turned to joy...
Pam Carlson-Hetland07/24/07
I can only echo the comments above. This is a riveting story. Well written. Not easily forgotten.
Dixie Phillips07/24/07
Okay, call me a prophetess but this is a winner! OH MY..... such creativity! Yikes.... watch out! God has some wonderful writing opportunities for you in the days ahead.
Jacquelyn Horne07/25/07
Very poignant account. True happiness is in the Lord.
Catrina Bradley 07/25/07
You've left me breathless, and aching inside, again. (In a good way.) I've waited all week to read this; I had to let my emotions rest. :) I agree about the MC's name, but that's minor. I think this is Superb, with a capital "S". :)
David Butler07/25/07
Reminds me that we never had it soooooo good in our culture.

On a personal note: Good writers put a bit of themselves into their writing. I see it in yours. On the boards, you show the cheery, happy, laughing side of you. In many of your articles, I see the deeper, thoughtful, deeply spiritual side of you. Keep it up Joanne.
Julie Ruspoli07/25/07
Wonderful writing. I could picture your story and couldn't stop reading.
Venice Kichura07/27/07
WOW!! This is excellent---well crafted! So masterfully written!
Marie Fieldman07/29/07
Hi Joanne.

I see what you mean about the asterisks. It's easy to get. I also really like this story. I'm reading Foxe's Book of Martyrs.I loved your main character. I would have liked to know more about the setting, but that's not the strength of it.

william price07/29/07
Excellent story. Near perfect presentation. Great insight and depth. The story flowed on so many levels. A surface meaning with a stronger under current of truth. I'm very impressed. God bless.
Laury Hubrich 08/22/07
Wow! I was just now reading this piece from looking at your website and when I checked out what topic it was, I was taken aback -- happy. Wasn't too happy, girlfriend! Was scary. I always wonder if I'll be able to stand up to persecution like that. Just goes to show that perspectives change with circumstances. She was happy because she was able to look forward to Heaven. Very thought provoking and stirs up lots of emotion!
Poet Marcheleo04/02/08
"How can a man derive such pleasure from my pain?" This is a very good question and the answer reveals the heart. God bless you sister. Amen.
Clifford Tate 04/23/08
What can I say that has not already been said, WOW! Breath taking account of trusting, loving, and abiding in the Lord Jesus Christ. Your choice of scripture verses was right on point and helped to paint your picture beautifully. I feel honored that you would even read and critique my novice Article. I write non-fiction primarily, but hope to one day be able to arrange my words in such a way as you do to pen fiction for the Glory of God. Can't wait to read your book!
Emily Ritter02/11/13
Something really cool just happened when I read your piece. You know how during a pastor's sermon, the Holy Spirit can speak different words to different people that the pastor really knows nothing of? I was scrolling through the top 400 writings, aimlessly, and picked yours. I was enjoying your writing, and then "BAM," you wrote the first line about the sky being a constant. I almost cried. God showed me how he sees me, he hears me, he knows me, he loves me because he was in this exact place in time as I read. Just this morning I stood outside letting my dog out, and looking at the dusky morning sky. The clouds were moving quickly, and I was in awe of the sky. There was so much quiet and peace in this moment, and in my head I said "You don't keep the sky from the poorest of the poor, they have it just the same as the rest of us. Thank you (God)." God is moving through your writing. Praise Him! Thanks!
Andy Smith10/11/13
I'm reminded of Paul, and the suffering he endured. He cultivated peace from pain, counting the cost of his afflictions a blessing to share with his Savior. This is quite an article. I loved it !