Most martyrs don’t die because they want to. They’re propelled by their faith to a place from which they can find no escape. Most trusted God for a better life and would have lived on if they could. But instead, the beautiful promise which encouraged them on ends broken not just in their body but also their soul. There’s no immediate glory in that, just an emptiness, a hope left unfulfilled.
I can hear their hurt in Revelation 6. “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, ‘Oh Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell in the earth? Then they were given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.”
They address God ”Sovereign Lord, holy and true” but its partly a challenge and a lament. “This is who you said you’d be and yet you haven’t been!” In the same way, there’s pain and fear in their asking, “How long?” “We believed in you once can we believe in you now!?! We had hopes for a future, a better world than the box of bones we’re living in now. We trusted your promises! Are you going to come through? Are you going to pay out the promises which cost us our lives?”
“A little longer” is all that is said.
I’m no martyr but I identify with the hurt. I’ve been propelled on by God’s promises to a place from which it seems I can find no escape. The dreams I had are daily being broken, left unfulfilled in the passage of time. And I feel at times like Thomas A’Kempis, the author the Imitation of Christ, who awoke one day to find himself buried in his own coffin. Wait, this isn’t how it was suppose to go! And like him, I’ve clawed so fiercely at my chamber walls that my nails have broken off bloody in the boards. Am I suppose to be at peace with it? Do saints die clinging to life like this, calling God out on his unfulfilled promises? It seems so. Remember the words of Jesus, “My God my God why have you forsaken me?”
“A little longer.”
I hope so.