Shadi* drew a deep breath as she scanned the courtroom full of angry stares, trying to find even a nod of support. She looked down at her hands, nervously interlocking her fingers as she considered the offer the judge had just given her.
“If you will just say to this court that you are not a Christian, then we will give you your daughter back.”
As she closed her eyes, she saw her daughter’s face. It had been months. She longed to scoop her daughter into her arms and feel the warmth of her love. A tear ran down Shadi’s face as she battled the feelings of hopelessness in her heart.
She glanced around the room again—everyone there was Muslim. No one understood. Her lawyer leaned to her and whispered, “Just say it to them, and then you can be happy.” She grabbed the chair in front of her as the weight of it all threatened to crush her.
With darkness closing in around her, Shadi felt another force begin to fill the room. She remembered that Jesus had told his disciples that when they were taken to court, they would be given words to say by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 10:17–20).
“Jesus, this is so difficult,” she prayed. “I am so scared.”
Shadi closed her eyes. When she opened them again and saw the judge’s face, she balled her fists resolutely at her sides and said, “No, I am a Christian, and my God will give me back my daughter.”
And then Shadi was thrown out of the courtroom.
She thought it was just be a matter of time until God delivered her daughter back to her. When seven months passed and Shadi still did not have her daughter back, she began to complain to God, saying, “See, God, I chose you, now where is my daughter?”
All along this journey, Shadi had been faithful to God. When her husband said she could not read her Bible, she hid it and read it in secret. Even though her husband kept her from seeing family and friends, she would not renounce her faith.
She endured being beaten, thrown out of her home, and having her two-year-old taken away from her, and never once did she turn her back on God. When it came to choosing an easy path to get her daughter back, she instead chose God.
So, she wondered, why after all her faithfulness to God was God unfaithful to her?
Bitterness and confusion took up residence in Shadi’s heart like heavy stones. She slipped into a deep depression, neither wanting to talk to God nor hear from him.
One day she saw on the news that a massive earthquake had devastated part of Iran not far from where she lived. As she watched the frantic people, she could not even muster up the energy to care about their situation. She thought to herself that those people looked hopeless just like her.
The ring of the telephone drew her away from the TV. It was her friend saying, “Shadi, have you seen what has happened with the earthquake? Are you coming with us to help these people? There are women and children who need your help.”
“No,” Shadi replied quickly. “If I was a good person God would let me look after my own child, so I am not coming.”
“Please Shadi,” her friend said. “I know God has a plan for you there.”
Shadi hung up the phone and walked listlessly back to the sofa, startled to see a stern look from her mother sitting next to her. “Shadi, you must trust God and go,” her mother reasoned. “Put your baby and your desire into God’s hands, just like Moses’ mother trusted her baby to God.”
Moved by her mother’s words and the tears beginning to slide down her face, Shadi called her friend back and said she would go.
From the moment she arrived in the disaster area, Shadi’s heart was changed. She saw people who were suffering and broken and was amazed that God would choose to use her, broken as she was, to help these people in need.
God began healing Shadi’s broken heart. Although she didn’t have her own daughter, Shadi became “mother” and “auntie” to more than 700 children who had lost everything. She was able to show motherly love again to children who were desperate, and she praised God for how he chose to answer her prayers.
It has been 13 years since Shadi’s daughter was taken from her because of her faith in Christ. Her husband and the Islamic government made it impossible for Shadi to care for her daughter in the way she wanted just because she wouldn’t give up on Jesus.
The difference today is that Shadi is full of hope. She counts it a privilege that the Holy Spirit gave her the ability to obey God and not deny him in the courtroom. She finds great joy in being used by God to share the gospel with others and help those who are hurting.
Because of persecution, Shadi had to leave her home in Iran. She is not sure if she’ll ever see her daughter again, but she is always praying for her daughter to become a woman of God just like her.
At Secret Church 17 we will be praying for the persecuted church in Iran and for the unreached peoples of Iran to put their faith in Jesus Christ. To learn more about Secret Church, or to register for the simulcast, go here.
*Name changed for security purposes.