8 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write:‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.
9 “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty ( but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.” (Revelation 2:8–11 ESV)
I fear what Bethany might be about to suffer. I fear it. The last time this happened, I desperately pleaded with God, “please, take me, and let this girl live.” Never in my life have I ever pleaded with God like this.
Never in my life have I meant it.
I don’t want tribulation. I don’t want poverty. I don’t want to be faithful unto death. I don’t want to die. I don’t want Bethany to suffer or die. She has suffered enough, endured enough, her young life has been filled with such tragedy, such sorrow, such violence, and such despair, enough to fill a dozen lives.
Tears enough to flood the world and drown everything in it.
I don’t want to conquer. I simply want to live. And I want Bethany to live, too. Again, I would give my life for hers, though I know mine has no value to the people who have taken her — if she has indeed been taken.
I’m sick. And I am afraid. My faith melts away and little is left. I am praying for the redeeming power of God, for a flood to drown the armies of Pharoah. But whatever Jesus means by this second death, I fear the first more. I fear the devil and his prison. I fear what may be happening to Bethany this very moment. I am afraid. And I don’t know how not to be afraid right now.