Conquering Fear with Faith
By Bennett Rolan – BSF Editorial Manager
Lying facedown, Joy Machunga was prepared to die. Her leg throbbed after being brutally kicked, but she did not date to move. Shots sounded overhead, and Joy prayed in silence.
“I just said, ‘Lord, take control.’ ”
After several days in Abuja, Nigeria, visiting a BSF class as an area advisor, Joy was on her way home to the city of Jos.
Between Abuja and Jos, bus drivers choose between two routes. One, though longer, is highly populated and typically safe. The other is infamous for gang activity and carjackings. That day, Joy’s driver chose the latter.
“I just assumed without asking that he would take the safer road,” Joy said. “When I realized he was going the other way, I said, ‘Nobody goes that way. It’s shorter by how many minutes? Maybe 30? Is it not better to be safe than arrive somewhere early?’ ”
With mounting concern, Joy texted the BSF teaching leader in Abuja to pray as they continued down the deserted road.
“Five minutes ahead of us, I saw another bus parked on the side of the road, all of their luggage was on the ground,” Joy said. “I thought they probably had a flat tire or engine trouble. Then I saw the man dressed in black with a gun.”
When fear grows
When the bus stopped, one of six gunmen ordered the driver and passengers to lie facedown on the road.
“I pretended I didn’t understand the instruction,” Joy said. “If you are lying on the road, and a car comes at a high speed, that’s very dangerous. So I walked to the side of the road and brought a mother with an 8-month-old baby next to me. We were lying on the ground when they started asking for money.”
When Joy replied that her money was still on the bus, the man kicked her in the leg before retrieving her bag. Minutes later, another car pulled into view, but before the gunmen could target the driver, the car turned and sped in the opposite direction.
“This guy started shooting, and it became very clear to me that these people could shoot or kill anyone here,” Joy said. “I prayed for that car to get away.”
When the car was out of the gunmen’s range, they turned their anger on Joy and her fellow passengers.
“They came back, stood over our heads and started shooting again,” Joy said. “They shot into the air to frighten us.”
Then, without warning, the men ordered the hostages to return to the bus and leave.
Faith can prevail
“Everyone stumbled into the bus,” Joy said. “People were crying, so I said to them, ‘Please don’t cry,’ because I wanted the driver to concentrate. Then I started to think, ‘Let’s give thanks to God because nobody was hurt or shot.’ There were eight people on that bus. Eight families could have been mourning that day. So, I started singing.”
In a confident voice, Joy sang a familiar Nigerian hymn. Two men joined the song, and within minutes their weeping turned to worship.
“We had prayed for safety and protection,” Joy said. “Other people had not been that lucky.”
That night, after thanking God with her husband, Joy slept soundly, and “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” guarded Joy’s heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). Today, when Joy remembers her experience on the road from Abuja, she prays for a fellow passenger, a young muslim man.
“When we got off the bus, he just said, ‘Thank you, madame, thank you.’ I pray that what happened on that bus and our reaction to what happened would speak to his heart.”
Building a Hebrews 11 faith
Joy’s ability to look beyond her circumstances and trust the Lord is the very definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1:
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Whether she lived or died, Joy’s confidence was in Jesus. Her assurance was in the one true God, who would never leave her. And her response was to worship and point others to Christ.
Hebrews 11 then lists men and women of remarkable faith throughout Scripture. In a modern version of the chapter, we could easily add someone such as Joy: “By faith, Joy prayed and trusted God, even though her very life was threatened. By faith, she worshipped on the bus as a testimony to God’s goodness and glory. For Joy was looking forward to eternity with Christ and counted her life as nothing compared with Jesus.”
Though her faith is extraordinary, Joy is an ordinary person. Like the men and women of Hebrews 11, she is tempted with worry and fear.
As part of her job for a Christian ministry, she helps fellow Nigerians who have been violently persecuted for their Christian allegiance. During her first visit to a devastated village, Joy felt despair. Months earlier, she questioned God’s plan and purpose during the trying death of her mother.
Through these difficult situations, Joy took time to pray, seek God’s wisdom and ask for increased faith. In all these circumstances, Joy’s “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” was confirmed.
Practicing her faith in tough moments prepared her for that day on the bus. Just as God strengthened Abraham and Moses, He is faithful to build our faith today. For Joy, much of that assurance has come from knowing God intimately through His Word.
“I thank God for the tool of BSF and wisdom to be able to walk through the Word step by step at every level,” Joy said. “I’m so thankful. Knowing about Him and knowing Him for who He is through His Word are different. I’m a living testimony of how practical His Word really is.”
God knows that we cannot develop our faith alone. So in Hebrews 12:1-2, He gives us a simple guidance: In a single sentence, we are told to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
Hebrews 12:3 tells us that, like Joy, when we focus on Christ, we “will not grow weary and lose heart.”
“You have to do what God is calling you to do,” Joy said. “If God is calling you to do it, He’ll take care of it.”