Friday, March 6, 2015

Burnt by Religion

Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you.  James 4:8a

When I read James 4:8a to Nazanin she shuddered. She had no desire to come close to God. She had been burnt by religion and was afraid of God.
“What is your goal in life?” I asked Shahnaz. “To make money,” she answered. As we discussed further, it was apparent there was no room for any religion. She had been burnt from the portrayal of Islam and the control of Muslim clerics back home. She did not trust holy books, God, clerics, or any religion. In her mind everything was just a fairy tale.

“What is your purpose in life?” I asked Mojgan. “I don’t know what you mean,” she answered. “Do you know why you were created?” I asked. “No,” she replied. “Do you know why, Joy?” she inquired in curiosity. “Yes, I do,” I replied. “Please tell me then. I never thought about it before,” she said. Mojgan believed in a distant Power but nothing more than that.  There was no evident spiritual hunger or thirst. She wanted freedom but was empty inside. No peace. No rest.  
When I asked Azita if she knew why she was created she said, “I have wondered why and asked many mullahs back home to tell me why but not one could tell me the answer.” Even though she, too, had been deeply burnt by religion and government control over her personal life she did evidence a spiritual capacity but had given up finding the answer to her burning question. No one could give her a satisfying answer. We had Bible studies together and she loved to hear about God and how Jesus came to show us the way to Him. But when it came to the moment of decision she disconnected from me entirely. No more phoning, visiting, or answering emails. She had been burnt and could not commit her life to Christ just in case she might go through another bad experience. Azita had only opened “empty gift boxes.”

 Farideh could not imagine not believing in God but she wanted to make up her own faith. She mixed the parts of Islam she liked, some Buddhism, new age practices, self-help, Zoroastrianism, and the God-is-love part from Christianity all together. Whatever could bring comfort and a sense of having life under her control was pursued. She had tried church but had a bad experience so left that. She still has not found peace and rest. I have known her for decades but she is not ready to commit to anything with absolutes. She fears being put in a box or controlled.
There are a growing number of Muslims today who have been burnt by religion. They pursue freedom, money, higher education, and community but ultimately are left empty. It may take decades to realize they are empty. Usually a crisis or desperate need brings God back into the picture. I continue to proclaim God’s love and truth but most of the time I find it takes a supernatural encounter to help them commit their lives to Christ. God is compassionate and comes to those who are burnt by lies and deception.

Dear heavenly Father, I don’t know how but You know how to reach Muslims burnt by religion.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.