Today, I (Donna Avant) feel as if I have been taken captive inside my own home by an unseen enemy, the coronavirus. My cellmate is my husband, John Avant, president of Life Action. We are hoping to encourage you through this daily column.
Will we survive a few weeks isolated from the world? Or will we end up driving each other insane?
Who are your cellmates? Are they little ones dragging out every toy they possess and constantly asking for you to join them in play? Are they teenagers, devouring all your stockpiled food before the end of the first week and rolling their eyes at you as you make suggestions on the use of their time?
Or are you in prison alone, as a single or a senior adult, with a silence that is deafening and a heart that is aching? Will you and your cellmates self-destruct as the enemy attacks our land?
There are two questions I am asking myself right now. First:
What will we do during this captivity?
The story in 2 Kings 5:1-15 of a young Jewish girl who was taken captive by the army of Aram (Syria) gives us potential answers to the first question.
The Bible does not give us much background about this young girl. However, some assumptions can be made. Possibly she was from a wealthy family, or the Syrian army may not have raided her home. She was also most likely strong and/or beautiful, because she was assigned to serve the wife of the commander of the Syrian army, Naaman. This was a position of prominence for a slave girl.
We can also assume that this young Jewish girl had been taught Jewish history and laws. Her future before captivity was bright—she would grow up to be a wife and mother and have a comfortable Jewish home … the dream of every young Jewish girl.
All of her hopes and dreams were destroyed instantly when the enemy raided her home and took her to serve Naaman’s wife. As she daily served her mistress, she learned of Naaman’s leprosy.
In Naaman’s culture, leprosy would not have made him an outcast as it would have in the Jewish culture. But it would threaten his ability to lead the army, and it would end his way of life.
The young slave girl must have observed the distress of her mistress and wanted to help. She risked her life by speaking up and telling her mistress the cure for Naaman’s disease: “If only my master would see the prophet [Elisha] who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:3 NIV).
Her boldness could have cost her her life. Yet she had experienced the power of the one true God. She had either heard about or seen with her own eyes the miracles God had performed through Elisha’s ministry.
This young girl was more concerned with God’s glory than with her own welfare. She knew the answer, and she boldly stated it.
The very fact that Naaman and his wife listened to this young girl and heeded her counsel reveals the respect they both had for her. She must have served well.
There is no evidence of a bitter or angry spirit. This young girl who had lost everything chose to love those who had enslaved her.
Dreams have recently been destroyed by our unseen captor. People will have to delay retirement. Business owners may have to close down their businesses. Ministries and churches who depend on people to give will be endangered. Senior adults are being isolated from family.
Brides are postponing their weddings. Expectant moms are being told their plans of family being there for the birth are nixed, as only their husbands are allowed be present. Seniors in high school are foregoing their long awaited proms and senior recognitions. Students who have worked tirelessly to perform their musicals or compete in athletic competitions are having them cancelled. This enemy is ruthless as it takes captives.
What are actions I can take based on this young slave girl’s story?
1. Accept a biblical view of suffering. “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if we indeed share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:17). Suffering is not fun. But God’s Word again and again declares that suffering will accomplish His purposes. Embracing this one truth will enable me to react in a Christlike manner.
2. Choose my attitude during captivity. As I shared earlier, the slave girl showed no evidence of griping, grumbling, or complaining. I believe she chose to have an attitude of thankfulness for what was before her, and not bemoaning what could have been. Daily, John and I are verbalizing what we are thankful for. Again, not easy, but it is possible by the power of Christ.
3. Choose to do the next thing. The girl made a decision to serve. Serving others is not glamorous, not easy. Yet I believe every day she woke up, she did the next thing in front of her. What is the next thing He is asking of me? It may be to clean the kitchen or read a book to a child. Just do the next thing. (This point is expanded in the chapter on suffering in the book my husband and I recently released, Yes Changes Everything.)
4. Choose to have a schedule. Servants had precise schedules in those days. This girl knew what time to wake up, what time to fix breakfast, what time her mistress would walk in the garden. During times of crisis, we need a schedule. We are creatures of habit. We feel out of control because our daily routines have been interrupted. However, we can make a new routine. Schedules and routines especially help children during a time of crisis. It gives them security to know what is coming next.
My prayer during this captivity is that I may be more concerned with God’s glory than I am with my own welfare. May I seek to love those around me by serving them with an unselfish spirit.
What will be the results of our captivity? God used this young Jewish girl to save Naaman and remind the entire Syrian nation who the one true God is. What will the results of your captivity be?
What will we do after captivity?
As I look to this second question, I am reminded of the story of Patrick, as we end the week in which millions of people normally celebrate his life.
Patrick was born in Britain, but in approximately 405 A.D., he was kidnapped by Irish invaders. During his captivity, he was forced to tend sheep.
It was there Patrick found Christ. He later said, “The Lord opened to me a sense of my unbelief, so that at last I might remember my sins and be converted with all my heart to the Lord my God.”1 The Lord used suffering to call Patrick to Himself.
Missionary and author Elisabeth Elliot said, “There is no redemptive work done anywhere without suffering.”2 Patrick’s captivity was the very instrument that led him to follow Jesus. It was suffering that forced him to look inside himself and to learn that Jesus Christ was the ultimate answer to his captivity.
At the age of 22, Patrick escaped and returned home. There he chose to immerse himself in God’s Word in preparation for returning to the land of his captivity.
He chose not to become bitter toward his captors. Instead, he chose to return and share the love of Christ. History records that he planted 200 churches and led over 100,000 to Christ despite continuous threats to his life.2
What will you choose to do with this captivity? What will life hold for you after your release?
- Choose to turn to Christ during this time. If you already know Christ, use this time to immerse yourself in God’s Word. What is He saying to you? I’m having to discipline myself to turn off the news and open God’s Word. The news will not change my life. God’s Word will!
- Choose to intercede on behalf of those who are lost or who have not been walking with Christ. I am hearing stories daily of people who are walking into churches and asking about God. People are scared. We have the answer. Be ready to share the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15). When we are released, let’s not go back to life as “normal.” Patrick didn’t.
- Choose to daily engage fellow captives in discussions about fear, anxiety, hope, and God’s answers. If you do not have any cellmates, text or call people. Check on others daily who may be isolated. Be intentional in reaching out to others.
God’s Word is filled with stories of people in captivity. My prayer is that our suffering will not be wasted but will increase His kingdom.
“You [Joseph’s captors] intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).
1 “On This Day in Christian History,” Robert J. Morgan, 1997, Thomas Nelson, March 17.
2 Suffering Is Never for Nothing, Elisabeth Elliot Gren, 2019, B&H Publishing, 104