“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
double for all her sins.”- Isaiah 40:1-2 (ESV)
We are often reminded, at Salam Christian Fellowship, of God’s Grace and the comfort that Jesus brings to this sin-torn world. Sometimes it is visions and dreams of Jesus that point the Muslims who attend Salam to the Word of God, where they find hope and comfort. Other times, it is a slow, but dramatic change of heart, where we could see how the Word of God, planted by the preaching of the Gospel, is watered by God.
Last week, driving Banar, an Iraqi single mom who joined us for our family Thanksgiving dinner, she shared with me the comfort Jesus brought into her life.
“I was blind, but now I see,” Banar stated. “My hate towards my ex has turned into forgiveness. My fear of the future has been transformed into hope and trust in Jesus Christ,” she added. “My son, who is the apple of my eye, is in the hands of Jesus, whom I trust,” Banar said confidently.
Banar came from Baghdad, Iraq, in 2010, with great expectations, as a bride, wed to an American Iraqi. She thought that she would find love, peace, and happiness in America, after she had left her war-torn country behind.
Banar found herself in a “nest of vipers,” as she explained, under an abusive husband supported by callous-hearted relatives. “I was treated like a slave, or a piece of property. My ex and his family made fun of me, as I struggled to express myself in public departments with very little English.” When Banar tried to complain against their abusive treatment, she was threatened to be thrown in the street, she moaned.
“I felt that I was a stranger in a foreign land, facing an unknown gloomy future,” Banar said. However, she was told that if she gives birth to a baby that would change her ex’s heart. Also, she was told that it would give her some worth in the eyes of his condescending relatives.
Even though birthing Ali, was the most precious and happiest moment in her life, the abusive treatment did not stop. “I felt that, for my ex, I am only a breeding machine, to be used at his own convenience.”
“I had to leave that abusive relationship, and take my baby with me. I did not want Ali to see me, in the future, humiliated, and learn how to abuse me, from his father and relatives, or abuse any other woman, ,” she explained.
Facing life alone, in America, proved to be more difficult than she thought. Banar struggled with the basic needs in life. She had no friends. Most Iraqis turned against her. “In a male-dominated community, Iraqis blamed me for all the problems with my ex and his relatives,” Banar groaned. She found herself lonely, rejected, and hopeless.
“My ex and his relatives started to pedal rumors in the Iraqi community, accusing me of shameful conduct,” she opined. Going back to Iraq as a divorced woman, she knew that her destiny could be death in an honor killing.
Sitting at her small apartment is a suburb of Chicago, burdened with a toddler, and having no hope, Banar thought of killing her ex and committing suicide.
But the Gospel is the power of God, and in all things Jesus “works for the good of those who love Him, and are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8: 28)
“After two years of attending Salam, I am reconciled with God, and reconciled with the world. Jesus is walking with me, and giving me comfort, amid all the trouble. The Word of God is my guide. I am not afraid,” Banar concluded.
“The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.” Amazing Grace, John Newton