Waking Up Free

IBR-1113189When I woke up this morning, I was frustrated.  It was 5:04 am and I was up in order to go workout. My little girl cried and asked where I was going.  I lay back down with her and waited as patiently as I could until her breathing went rhythmic. I really enjoy my morning workout and when that routine gets thrown off, I get frustrated.  It’s selfish I know. I’m working on it.

In another part of the country, several other girls were waking up free for the first time in a decade. Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michele Knight all disappeared in 2003, 2004, and 2002 respectively. They vanished in three separate incidents nearly a decade ago, and they all turned up in the same house last night. What are the odds?

The story is one of heroism on the part of the girls and a neighbor who was in the right place at the right time. It is amazing to hear Charles Ramsey, the neighbor who discovered the girls sharing how he had lived in the neighborhood for a year with no clue that one of his neighbors had girls captive in his house.  Ramsey spoke of having barbeques with this man.  He said the man was uninteresting. It turned out that this “ordinary” neighbor was a key player in an exceptionally interesting turn of events.

Found and Rescued
Amanda Berry was frantically trying to get out of the house when Charles Ramsey heard her.  She escaped and phoned 911.  The police rescue operation freed several other girls from the house. Imagine the excitement of stepping out into the world for the first time in a painfully long time. How overjoyed the young ladies must be to know that they will not have to spend another night held captive by a maniac? They were set free from the terror that had reigned over them and controlled them for the better part of a decade.

Never give up hope
It is safe to assume that many people had written these girls off. Surely, they were dead. Why would anyone have any reason to believe otherwise? There are plenty of missing persons stories that do not end like this. Instead they end with a memorial service and maybe a few unrecognizable remains. We are accustomed to tragic endings to these stories.  We have been programmed to expect the worse. And in the sin-sickened and depraved world in which we leave, I think we should expect the worse.

But, there was something hopeful about waking up this morning and hearing of the rescue of these young ladies. It is doubtful that there were many people on the planet who went to bed last night thinking of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, or Michele Knight.  But, this morning anyone with access to a TV, internet, radio, or newspaper were thinking about them.

The cases of these missing girls is but a faint and distant memory in my mind, but the hopefulness that was brought on by reading, hearing, and watching interviews is almost overwhelming, even to me so far removed. It is proof that we should never give up hope. Even in the midst of horrible and overwhelming circumstances, there is hope.

As my thoughts drifted away from this miraculous rescue, I could not help but think of God’s marvelous rescue of his people. 1 Peter 2:9-10 speaks of this saying, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (italics added).” The God of the Universe, a God who is a loving father, has called people out of darkness into his marvelous light. He rescues the ones who believe in him, call upon his name, and confess him as Lord.

All people are sinners who are enslaved in sin and enemies of God. In our sin, we are under the tyrannical rule of sin, death, and darkness. But, God in his loving mercy, rescued his people from that slavery, the domain of darkness, and brought us into the kingdom of his Son Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:13-14).

The story of every Christian is that of enemies of Christ and slaves of sin who have been redeemed through the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ.  We were oppressed and God freed us. We were hopeless in sin, and God gave us hope. We were dead, and God made us alive in Christ.

When I think about this in light of the breaking news of the rescued girls, I almost weep.  For the first time in a long time, these girls are experiencing freedom. I guarantee they are rejoicing in the fact that they have been rescued. Many days the remembrance of my rescue from darkness to light takes a backseat in my mind. It shouldn’t.

I am also reminded to not give up hope.  Many times I have talked to people who struggle because one of their family members does not follow Christ. Maybe it is a wayward child, a confused peer, or a sibling who is blatantly opposed to the gospel.  At certain times, it feels as though there is no hope. But, this story reminds me that there is hope. Jesus Christ is a great savior and will wait patiently with people far longer than I ever will.  There may be times when you seem to have lost all hope that they will ever put their trust in Christ as their savior and follow him. You wonder if they will continue down the path of enmity. Some may, but there is hope that they will be rescued from the domain of darkness and delivered into the kingdom of light. Don’t give up hope. Proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to them and wait patiently for the Lord’s timing. Weep, but never give up hope.

This world is dark, cold, and evil. There are likely more girls who will go to bed tonight with tears on their pillows and bruises on their faces confined in houses that are not their own in darkness that will never seem to go away.  There will undoubtedly be more stories like this that end in sorrow, murder, and destruction. That is the world we live in. But, in the midst of this crooked and depraved world it is always good to remember the stories of hope like this one of Amanda Berry, Gine DeJesus, and Michele Knight.  Remember that a little bit of light can go a long way in a dark place.  In this world there will always be night to remind us of darkness, sin, and death. But, as long as the sun breaks through in the dawn we know there is hope! There is hope for a better today. There is hope for a better tomorrow. And through Jesus Christ’s resurrection there is hope for life beyond this life. A new life where girls don’t have to go to bed locked in corners of dirty houses. A new life where children do not have to cry themselves to sleep because their stomachs hurt so much from lack of food. A new life where there will be no more tears, no more hunger, no more slavery, no more sin, no more death, and no more darkness.

So, in the morning when the sun comes up, remember not to give up hope. In the Spring, when the world emerges from its cold winter slumber, remember not to give up hope. When your son, daughter, mother, father, friend, or enemy continues to rebel against the loving Father and King of the Universe remember not to give up hope.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,

‘therefore I will hope in him.’”

Lamentations 3:22-23

 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

1 Peter 3-9

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