In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:1 NIV
One of the most gripping and mysterious passages in the Bible is found in Genesis 1:1. How is it that God can take a dark, empty nothing and create something from it? He could separate the light from the darkness, dry land from the water and finally, with the dirt He had created from nothing, He molds Adam with His own hands.
Believers who thrive, not just survive, within environments of persecution grasp what it means to believe in a God who can create something from nothing. Persecution is generally perceived as being overt acts by the persecutors upon the flesh of the persecuted. When you ask westerners what comes to their minds when you say the word “persecution” they will quickly talk about beatings, torture, imprisonment and even death.
But persecution is more sinister and evil than overt acts upon one’s body. Often persecution leaves scars that can never be seen. Often the persecutors use tools which are more psychological than a physical assault on the bodies of believers. Often the worst persecution is to put the believer in a cell, alone, surrounded by an ocean of non-believers. There you remain one small, flickering light in an ocean of lostness, totally alone.
Three brothers were put in prison in China. They were thrilled because they were arrested and thrown into prison together. They were thankful that they were not jailed by themselves. Their tormentors used their entire arsenal of physical, psychological and emotional abuse to force the three brothers to deny their faith in Jesus. One of the more dehumanizing tools that the bad guys used was taking the three brothers to the squatty potty. These are commodes which are flush with the floor and it does not take too much imagination to visualize the condition of squatty potties in a Chinese prison. These three brothers would be marched to the squatty potty, forced to bend at the waist with their faces virtually inside of the toilet. Their arms would be twisted behind their backs, with the persecutors “adjusting” the believers arms painfully as if they were TV antennas with the squatty potty being the TV.
While the brothers related the story to me they spontaneously began to reenact what the persecutors had done to them over the last three years. As they demonstrated this inhumane treatment, they took turns being the persecutor or the persecuted. As they twisted each other’s arms above an imaginary squatty potty they would ask the one playing the role of the persecuted, “Oh, you are unlucky today because your television is only in black and white.” Or the persecutors would say, when there was a particularly foul toilet, “You are so lucky today because you have color TV!”
What amazed me the most was how these three brothers laughed with joy as they role-played their persecution which had ended a few weeks before I met them. What astounded me was how they created a holy space, a place where they could laugh at their persecution and a space where God could create joy in their hearts….in an environment of utter darkness.
They understood that they belonged to the God who could create anything He wanted to, out of nothing. Today you might find yourself in what seems to be a hopeless, a totally dark situation. Bind yourself to the One, Who can help you create something beautiful, hopeful and holy out of nothing.