“I handed Russell the pillowcase and looked into the face that had become so dear to me. A cry of protest, of fear, strangled itself in my throat. ‘You sadists, you didn’t even let me say goodbye!’ I swallowed hard and clenched my fists. ‘You’ll not have the satisfaction of seeing me cry.’ The driver started the engine. Russell leaned over the tailgate and very quietly said, ‘Remember one thing, dear: God said that He would never leave us nor forsake us.’ The truck started with a jerk and disappeared down the road.”
I treasure the stories the the faithful.
I’ve read countless Christian life and growth books, and I enjoy them. But the books that have radically altered my life, realigned my thoughts, and permanently opened my eyes (aside from the Bible) are books of those who have gone before me.
When I see someone standing in the midst of the hurricane of life, and they are clutching to The Rock of truth that sustains them… I want that same Rock. And I want Him desperately.
Evidence Not Seen is written by Darlene Deibler Rose. A young bride, she followed her husband’s passion for the unreached tribes of New Guinea. She studied the Dutch language. She led rotting flesh off his feet when he got “jungle rot.” She trekked up mountains, and said goodbye to beautiful wedding presents. And then, just as she herself was falling in love with the dark-skinned, timid tribes people… the Japanese arrived.
World War II came to their small island.
One would think that she had already done enough: leaving a comfortable home, the rigors of language study, the physical discomfort, the tenuous unknown of becoming a missionary to unreached people, but God allowed more. Darlene spent four years in a Japanese prison camp in the jungles of New Guinea. Her faith, constancy, and deep love and gratitude to her Savior shine from every page.
However, my favorite section is where the title of her book comes from… Darlene is in solitary confinement. Often while being punished with solitude and torture, she experienced amazing peace and the presence of God. But not this time.
“I felt enveloped in a spiritual vacuum. ‘Lord, where have you gone? What have I said or done to grieve you? Why have you withdrawn your presence from me? O Father–‘ In panic I jumped to my feet, my heart frantically searching for a hidden sin, for a careless thought, for any reason why my Lord should have withdrawn His presence from me.”
The beauty of that initial response and the pain of that loneliness struck me. For her first reaction to be one of personal evaluation and deep humility is staggering. I would have turned towards anger or despair. After all, hadn’t I been amazing serving God in such primitive conditions? And He was allowing such things as prison camps, torture and solitary confinement? How dare He!? And then on top of such pain, came her deep sensation of loneliness. She speaks of her prayers hitting the ceiling and her worship seeming unheard.
As she meditated on scripture, praying through the intense pain and aloneness, the following beautiful revelation from Hebrews 11:1 came to mind, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” And in that moment Darlene realized, “My faith rested not on feelings, not on moments of ecstasy, but on the Person of my matchless, changeless Savior, in Whom is no shadow caused by turning.”
Little did I know, as I turned the last page of Darlene’s story, that God was going to ask me to live out my belief of the same truth just a few short months later.
Lying in a hospital bed, then my bed, then again in the hospital, then again in my bed… staring at the ceiling. Achingly alone. Unable to hold a Bible. In so much pain that even faint noise caused intense agony. Months of weakness. And loneliness.
During this darkness, I only once or twice received even a sliver of a peaceful, loved feeling. On the contrary. I felt alone. I felt abandoned. Almost constantly. But as pain washed over my body, I murmured over and over to the watching forces of evil, “You will not rip away my belief in my good God. You will not convince me He does not care.” As spiritual beings watched my silent, lonely struggle, I murmured, “I will believe even though I do not feel.“
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12
Darlene’s story held my hand in the silence. The faithfulness and tested truth of a woman who endured so much more than I… her story bolstered my resolve in those moments of agony and loneliness. Her example urged me to not stop my worship or my prayer. Her faithfulness brought forth faithfulness in me.
And for that, I am forever grateful.