When I’ve read stories of persecuted Christians, at times I’ve felt a little hopeless–hopeless in the sense that I know I can never attain the level of moral and spiritual maturity that these brothers and sisters seem to have reached.
Those of us who work in persecuted church ministries like Voice of the Martyrs Korea, often highlight the positive aspects of the faith of Christians in persecuting countries, but we don’t always report on the day-to-day struggles that also beset them.
Our founder, Rev. Richard Wurmbrand, told about his own life in an altogether different manner. In God’s Underground he tells of his sins and struggles right alongside victories and miracles. For example, Rev. Wurmbrand fully admits that early on in his time in prison he strongly considered killing himself. He tells us that over the course of a full month he stockpiled enough pills to do the job (In God’s Underground, 42). He also tells the story of how he signed false confessions stating that he was an adulterer and a homosexual and that he sold the church bells and pocketed the money for himself (48).
Rev. Wurmbrand freely shared how he struggled with thoughts of violence and sexual temptation. He said,
I was also troubled by dreams of violence against those who had put me in prison, and tormented by erotic fantasies. I was thirty-nine when I entered prison, healthy and active, and now the return of tuberculosis brought increased sexual desire. Lying awake, I had hot sweaty dreams of sensual pleasure with women and girls, then-although I tried to drive them out-came visions of perversions and exaggerations of the act of love ( 62).
And Rev. Wurmbrand admitted to thinking too deeply about being released from jail if he would act as the church’s figurehead for the Communist government. Wurmbrand said,
I needed strength from above to say no, when doing so meant serving eleven years more, with the sacrifice of my family and almost certain death under terrible conditions; but at the moment God’s face was veiled and my faith failed me (261).
Rev. Wurmbrand openly shared his struggles, temptations, and sins when he could have very easily left those portions of his life out of his books.
I hope that you don’t read the above quotations and feel more relaxed about your own sin. I also hope the opposite isn’t true . . . that your respect for Rev. Richard Wurmbrand might somehow be diminished because of the sins with which he struggled. My goal in sharing these quotations is to remind us that Christians who suffer in parts of the world like North Korea, Syria, and Eritrea are human beings just like you and me. They struggle with sin, just like you and I do. They are in need of a savior who can forgive their sins, just like you and I are. And except for the grace of God combined with good discipleship, they would not be able to endure in times of suffering, imprisonment and certain death.
Instead of looking at the faith of these men and women as never being attainable, we can imitate (1 Cor. 11:1) their courage, their reliance on God, and their faithfulness to God despite difficult circumstances. We can also understand how amazing their steadfastness really is . . . because morality and spirituality do not come any easier for them than for us. These men and women are able to stand for Jesus not because of their own goodness, but because they were discipled by other Christians and because of God’s grace given to them in their time of need.