On the way home for school, my son invited me to attend a special event that evening to hear a speaker from the holocaust. I decided if my son invited me to go, I was going. As my kids get older, the time available to spend with them seems to get less and less.
As soon as we arrived and I was graciously given a ticket from a stranger whose son was not able to attend. With affirmation that I was to attend, I concentrated attempting to decipher through the dialect of Nesse Godin. My heart filled with gratitude as she shared her story. She was thirteen when she became a prisoner and survived a ghetto, a concentration camp, and a death march.
Nesse also shared some practical ways of how God provided for her. The older ladies in the camp urged her not to give up, and not to let Hitler have a victory over her. One woman told her, to survive she needed to stand up straight and pinch her cheeks to look healthy. The older women would see her crying from hunger. So out of their little ration of bread they would break off a small piece and give it to her. One woman who did not survive exhorted Nesse to tell their story. And now she does.
Nesse speaks against evil as she challenges the students to think first before they act and to investigate what groups are about before they join. She warned them to be careful, “Woe, to those who call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). Appropriately, for this time of year, she challenged our hearts to be grateful. She shared of how their beds would be infested with fleas, yet she learned to be thankful…the fleas kept the soldiers from beating them inside the barracks.
During the question and answer session, a young student asked her how she survived. As I sat in a public school auditorium, to my amazement, Nesse boldly proclaimed to a few hundred teens in attendance, “I survived by the grace of God. I prayed every night to live.”
After experiencing and seeing so much tragedy and abuse herself, she admitted that she wanted to die. But how did she survive, if it were not for the grace of God and the women who died to themselves to see that she lived? It hit me that these older women had spoken into her life, “Stay alive to tell our story.” These words gave Nesse hope and purpose.
A few days later, I was introduced to another fellow author. We discussed our publishing experiences over (another provision of God) free coffee for both of us. After hearing his story and recalling the obstacles that I faced to publish, I would say with more conviction, there is an enemy that does not want people to read about God or the things of God!
I learned that my new friend had written a manuscript ten years ago when he was diagnosed with cancer of his salivary glands. It is a very rare cancer. After his surgery and treatments, he literally could not eat for two years. Pulling out the tip of his pen, he showed me the size his esophagus had shrunk. I listened amazed, as he continued to share his suffering that his house caught on fire. Everything was lost – all his possessions, his entire manuscript, all was lost, but his children and wife.
One morning at his church, he sensed the glory of God come down as he worshiped. His mouth began salivating (where there were no salivary glands)!!! And like most authors, we write what we experience. This suffering in his life did not stop him from persevering over the enemy to tell his life story as compared to Job in his next book. Even with dyslexia, my new friend exemplified what it looks like to be “more than a conqueror!”
My new friend has survived by the grace of God. He jokingly laughed that his double blessing (as Job had received) was that he now can eat two bowls of ice cream every day and not gain a pound. Don’t you love how God’s rewards faithfulness!?
Monday night, I received another blessing, as I spent the evening leading the “kick off” Bible study of my books with a handful of ladies at local ministry established for toubled women called a “House of Refuge.” Our discussion was rich. I was touched by their humility, reverence, and gratitude toward God in our time of prayer. The poor (they materially did not have much in this simple home), were “rich” in God. Again, I could see the two young girls living at the house were being sheltered by the grace of God.
My week was full of meeting others who boldly proclaimed, “I survived by the grace of God.”
So many of us are facing trials, and facing death of loved ones. If we by faith truly believe we have a destination beyond our earthly eyes, then we, who believe in Jesus, believe in heaven (eternal life) and hell (eternal suffering). We have a promise; we will survive by the grace of God through Christ Jesus our Lord!
I’ll close with some powerful verses from Hebrews that have given me strength to carry on in this life with hope of a better future.
“So do not throw away your confidence (that Jesus is who he said he was and will do what he promised), it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere (keep on reaching for the goal to apprehend the reason Jesus took hold of you) so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he promised. For in just a little while ‘He who is coming will not delay.’ But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back (in fear and unbelief) I will not be pleased with him. But we are not of those who shrink back (in fear and unbelief) and are destroyed, but of those who believe (that Jesus will complete what he began in us) and are saved (from ourselves for eternal life)!” Hebrews 10:34-35
Prayer Journal Task
This Thanksgiving week take some time away by yourself and focus on giving God thanks for all the blessings in your life. Start with the practical…your hands, feet, clothes, a warm home, family… Then thank God for Jesus, for his promises, and the grace we receive to survive today and eternally with him.