The way of persevering faith

“Everywhere and in all things I have learned to be both full and hungry, to abound as well as to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12b-13 (KJV)

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Editor’s note: In August 2014, Christian families on the Nineveh Plains in Iraq learned that a terrorist group was on the way and fled their homes in the middle of the night, fearing for their lives. For three years they lived displaced. After their cities were liberated, only a small remnant (about 40%) returned. Those who did return returned to bombed-out buildings and destroyed and damaged homes, many of which were beyond repair. Today, the situation in Iraq remains tense for Christians like Dahlia – the battle is not over.

I still remember waking my children in the middle of the night and fleeing our house. We left our house that my husband, Ghader, and I had been building for years, and we entered the unknown with our three young children, with little more than the clothes on our backs.

I have learned from the Scriptures that those who follow Jesus will be persecuted. Jesus told us, “In this world you will have problems. But take heart!” (John 16:33b-c, NIV). But that doesn’t mean what happened to us didn’t affect me. I cried all the way as we fled. Yet it has never affected my faith. The persecution we have endured for following Jesus has made me cling even more to God.

In the refugee camp where we lived for three years, people asked me why I was always smiling. I told them that we may have lost all our earthly possessions, but we still had Jesus and no one could take that away from us.

At the end of 2017, we made the decision to return to our home in the Nineveh Plains. This is our land and heritage. We trace our lineage back to the days of Jesus’ disciples – Peter even sent his greetings to the church in this region where we live.

But when we walked into our town, I barely recognized it. The destruction, the burning – the place was almost like a desert. Our house was looted, the rooms demolished. I felt like a stranger in my own house, as if I didn’t belong there.

Today we continue to rebuild our lives and our communities. City infrastructures are lacking, the economy is struggling and extremists are still a threat. Our bags are always packed in case we have to flee again. I am very strict with my children; I urge them to be careful. My daughter studies in nearby Mosul, where kidnappings and explosions are frequent. It is scary.

You may be wondering how I can live with so much uncertainty and risk losing so much again. My answer is simple: going to church and meeting God gives me hope. I pray a lot. When my prayers are deep and from the heart, I hear the voice of God within me and the Holy Spirit speaks to me. When I feel sad, oppressed, or alone, I cry out to God, especially when I miss my family. I am the only one of my extended family still here – the others have not returned.

Christians here build the church in the midst of the restoration of our city. I also conduct a Bible study for women. When I first came back, I felt like I needed something to strengthen my faith and restore my confidence. I saw that some women around me needed it too. We thought, what better place to gather than church, and what better place to find hope than in the Bible?

Recently, about 150 women attended our meeting. I feel the Holy Spirit at work in us during the meetings. Every time we meet, we talk about women in the Bible who were persecuted and about people who bravely faced difficulties. This makes us feel that we exist. We feel the presence of Jesus. And we feel that we belong here again.

Persecution and suffering have taught me that in any situation, in any crisis, there is only one thing I can do: trust the Lord and focus on Him. I always ask: How will You use me, Lord? I remember the words of the Apostle Paul and repeat them in my mind: “Everywhere and in all things I have learned to be both full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer in need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12b-13).

Please pray with us. With the prayers of the worldwide church, we can continue our ministry and spread the life-giving Word of the Lord… right here in the midst of persecution.

Father, thank You for Your promise and blessing of refining fire, and thank You that I can rely on You to walk me through it. I am overwhelmed by Your love for me – Your strength, deep compassion and abundant grace. Help me to ask: How will You use this, Lord? As I walk through suffering, surround me with Your presence and voice. Please strengthen Dahlia and her family and bring Your peace as they follow and serve You. And always be present with my sisters and brothers around the world, because they risk so much to bear witness to Your goodness and power. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

OUR FAVORITE THINGS

Persecuted Christians like Dahlia ask you to pray with them to stand strong in their suffering. Would you like to connect to pray with them through Open Doors USA? Download the new Open Doors Prayer app to receive real-time notifications and prayer requests directly from persecuted believers. You can also download Open Doors’ 52 Week Prayer Guide and pray with believers like Dahlia in the 50 Most Dangerous Countries for Christians.

ENGAGE

Dahlia lives with her husband, Ghader, their three young adult children and their white Chihuahua in Bashiqa, a city in northern Iraq. They are very active in their church but miss their relatives. Open Doors USA is publishing this dedication on behalf of Dahlia to share her story of how God has worked through her and her trials. Read more about Dahlia and other persecuted Christians at OpenDoorsUSA.org.

FOR DEEPER STUDY

John 16:33: “I have told you these things, that you may have peace in me. In this world you will have problems. But take heart! I have conquered the world.” (NBV)

Are you struggling with hope right now?

What distractions can you eliminate to focus your mind and heart on Jesus today? Join in the comments.

© 2022 by Dahlia from Iraq. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries would like to thank Open Doors USA for sponsoring today’s dedication.

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