I have a painting hanging in my office that gives me constant perspective. You may have seen it before: it’s called Safely Home and was painted by Ron Dicianni. Working at VOM, I consistently hear amazing testimonies; people are miraculously saved, protected, released from prison and provided for. God answers our prayers. Just last week after 220 days in prison, Pastor Farhad Sabokrouh was released from imprisonment in Ahvaz, Iran. All of the hundreds of letters and prayers were not in vain. I also consistently hear other stories. Also just this week we heard updates of continual attacks on Christians Egypt, homes were destroyed, at least two Christians were confirmed dead and a 15 year old girl was thrown from the second floor window of her home as her punishment for being a Christian, causing her severe injuries.
When I read the most tragic of stories, the ones where my mind can’t even quite formulate the words to pray, that’s when I look at this painting. The painting depicts a scene that takes place in the throne room of heaven. Jesus has come off of his throne and has a believer wrapped in his arms. The Christian man looks utterly relieved, he is leaning into Jesus, his clothes are dirty and torn, we don’t know what he endured, but we know it wasn’t easy. Jesus’ face is full of emotion as he holds the man close to his heart, showing he knows what this believer went through but is proud he made it safely home.
The details in this painting are what make it even more powerful. The man is holding onto a crown in his hand that has replaced handcuffs, now lying next to him. In the background is an Angel patiently waiting, holding a white robe which is reserved for those martyred for their faith in Christ. (Revelation 6:11, 7:13-14) A crown of thorns is etched into the red carpet, a reminder that we aren’t the first to have suffered.
It’s so easy to be quick to forget about eternity, in our own lives or in the stories of our persecuted family. Certainly, I have seen God move in powerful ways and answer prayers, there are times we see the church growing, the light vividly pushing back the darkness. But then there are other times that the world would even look at and call failure; seemingly senseless suffering and unresolved injustice.
But that’s where we still have hope, because this life isn’t it. In Christ, nothing will remain forever senseless or unresolved. 1 Corinthians 15:19 says “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” And again we see in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uniformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” As Christians, this life isn’t the focal hope that we have. Ultimately we have victory, no matter how dire the circumstances may look on this side of heaven. If we truly grasped even in the smallest measure what eternity really means, I think this would change our perspective immensely.
So when I read the stories of suffering, I look up—up at that painting on my wall and also up to Jesus who is sovereign, unchanging and faithful. I’m reminded of 2 Timothy 1:12, which says “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.”
"Grace Taylor" serves on the staff of VOM. She was first introduced to the ministry of VOM by her parents and grandparents, who received the VOM newsletter, and through the VOM book Jesus Freaks. She has served in 12 different countries and is passionate about helping expand God’s Kingdom throughout the nations of the world.