A Very Hard Place to Be
1 December 2005
Benjamin, a big strapping son of Niger, is a student in university. He’s an avid reader and a devoted hobbyist of English—as friendly and winsome as can be. He has been coming to the youth center for some time now, learning English and borrowing books from the little library. It was easy for us to become friends, and soon we were discussing the Christian faith. We began to study the Bible chronologically, and soon he accepted a French Bible. He was so thrilled he could not stop smiling. He said he planned to study how the Old Testament relates to the New Testament. (He had already read through the New Testament several times.) It’s obvious that he understands the Bible. But now his smile has faded.
I’m puzzled. He hasn’t yet confessed Christ as his Savior. Why not, when he obviously admires Him so much? I asked one of our Nigerien co-workers why Benjamin is so slow to come to faith. He replied thoughtfully: “I know exactly where Benjamin is right now. It is where I was, too, so many years ago. It’s a very hard place to be and to come out of. Don’t you know the place, too? Why, he’s counting the suffering. That’s where he is. You need to pray for him.”
Tears filled my eyes. Yes, I had known some suffering—but only years after coming to Christ. I had never once had to hesitate, in mortal fear, at embracing Him in the beginning.
Benjamin’s love for Christ will most likely cause the loss of his entire family, indeed all aspects of life as he knows it. Persecution will be a way of life, with painful rejection by his entire community. He may have to give up his university education, since his father is paying for it. Benjamin is facing the crucial decision between present (temporal) comfort and future (eternal) glory. He cannot have both. He will need a new family to provide sanctuary, love and support. Please pray that the local church members will be ready and willing to offer such care despite their own needs and their fears.