During this season of Lent, we’re journeying together through the Book of Job. It’s a story of suffering, faith, questions, and one man who cries out to God in the midst of heartbreaking affliction.
Over the next few weeks I’ll share stories of “suffering well” with you, from Sojourners at each of our campuses and from brothers and sisters that have come to know Christ through Sojourn International, our missions ministry. We’ll begin with one such story, as written by one of our missionaries in the field (I can’t tell you his name because it would put him in danger):
This is the story of a friend of mine who has suffered as much as anyone I know. He lives in an area of the world where it would be dangerous to associate his name publicly with Christianity, so we’ll call him Adam. His real name means ‘example,’ and that’s just what he has been to me, to any of us who follow Christ.
He was born in the capitol city of his country and at eight years old became an orphan. A child alone in an overcrowded city, he ended up at an orphanage in a small town. The orphanage sat across from a worship center of the local religion, so he basically grew up under loud speakers whose preaching woke him up in the morning and tucked him in at night.
He was a faithful student of the priests and a fine adherent of their goddess cult. They taught him that he must labor to please her and she might grant him mercy when he dies.
Soccer was his outlet, that is, until he fell and broke his elbow. Someone attempted to set it but didn’t get it right and left Adam with a contorted arm and nagging pain.
He was introduced to Jesus Christ as a teenager and at first was completely skeptical. He struggled to choose between what he had been taught most of his life about the goddess and what he was hearing now about Jesus, who claimed he was the only way to mercy. It sounded almost too good to be true—instead of working to please him, Jesus did all the work by sacrificing himself in our place. ‘What kind of love is this?’ he thought to himself.
After a few weeks of consideration Adam covenanted to follow Christ instead of the goddess. He was baptized not long afterward and grew as a young believer, learning to pray, obey the scriptures, and share the gospel with others.
In his entrepreneurial spirit he also opened a movie rental store. Just as business really began to roll, a dump truck lost control and drove through the 5×5 building. Thankfully Adam was not inside, but everything was destroyed, including his savings. Adam wept but trusted God’s good hand in the loss.
Soon afterward he was given the opportunity to work as a taxi driver, which went great until he accidentally hit a man who stepped in front of him. The pedestrian was fine but Adam was sentenced to three months in prison. Enduring the shame and dire conditions of jail , Adam spent his incarceration sharing the gospel with as many inmates as would listen. Several of them trusted in Christ.
We celebrated when Adam was released. He was overjoyed, but destitute. He moved into a tiny room on our compound until he could get back on his feet. One evening while watching a soccer game with some friends a drunk soldier hit Adam in his bad arm with a club. The bone shattered. His thin frame reeled with spasms of pain for days.
Thankfully God provided enough money to send him for surgery in his hometown, the capitol city. The operation was less than ideal, but it did leave his arm more functional than it had been in years. Sometimes you couldn’t tell if Adam was smiling with joy or grimacing with pain—I feel like that says a lot about him. Some days I wondered if he was going to turn away from God, questioning the one who allowed so many tragic things to come his way. I know he thought about it.
About a year ago Adam helped lead a team of volunteers through a remote area of his country where people had never heard of Jesus. Despite the danger to him Adam preached the gospel all along the way, powerfully refuting every sneering and doubtful question. Nearly 50 people believed, in villages spread across dozens of miles.
After five days of hiking, Adam, even though slowed by nausea and exhaustion, decided to tell the group his story. He recounted with detail blow after blow to his life, and I think for the first time he really began to put together how every single chapter of suffering had brought him closer to the One who suffered for him. “I have nothing to complain about,” he said, hiking with new strength in his step. “God has rescued me.”