“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” Romans 8:35
Betty Ann Olsen, a missionary nurse, arrived in war-torn Vietnam in 1964 at the age of 30 carrying nothing except her medical kit and a desire to serve God by loving others. She worked in a leprosarium in South Vietnam. Despite their humanitarian work, the VietCong constantly harassed the mission.
In 1968, Betty, along with another missionary, was kidnapped and taken hostage alongside Mike Benge, an American journalist. For months they were chained together, hiking north over 200 miles through the mountainous jungles. The hostages were sick from dysentery and malnutrition, and beset by fungus, infection, leeches, and ulcerated sores.
Just before crossing the border into Cambodia, Betty weakened to the point that she could no longer move. The soldiers began kicking and dragging her to keep her moving. With the other missionary already dead from the harsh conditions, the journalist, Mike Benge, was the only one left to try and defend her. Each time he tried he was beaten with rifle butts.
On September 28, 1967, Betty Ann Olsen died and was buried in the jungle. When Benge was released he met with the Olsen family and told them, “She suffered terribly. She died from starvation and dysentery two days before her 35th birthday. She never showed any bitterness or resentment. To the end, she loved the ones who mistreated her.”
Where was God in Betty Ann Olsen’s greatest time of need? Had He forgotten her or turned His back on her? No. God was right there with her through the darkest of valleys. How else would she have been able to offer such supernatural love to her persecutors?
Notice that Romans 8:35 does not spare us from hardship. Instead, it promises that even the worst of fates…that which Betty suffered, death…will not separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:37 goes on to promise that, “In all of these things we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus our Lord.” God’s love won’t always rescue us from hardship, suffering, or even death; but His love will always preserve us for everlasting joy in His presence.
Betty Ann Olsen was more than a conqueror over the cruelty she endured. God’s love enabled her to persevere through the hardest of circumstances so that when she crossed from that jungle into Glory she surely heard, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.”
Dear Father, I want my relationship with Jesus to define me. I want it to permeate every area of my life so that people know exactly whose I am. I pray that I would live my life in a manner worth of the calling you've given me and that I would point others to Christ not only through my words and actions towards others, but in the way I handle the circumstances I deal with each day. In Jesus' name, amen.