‘You have turned my mourning into dancing’ (Psalm 30:11 NRSV)
I was recently intrigued by a true story that came out of China.
In 1966, the Cultural Revolution closed all churches and religious places of worship in China, whether from Taoism, Confucianism, Islam or Christianity.
Henan province was declared an ‘atheistic zone’ by the authorities.
A house church leader gave the following account of the survival and growth of the Christian community in this period.
“When the wives of Communist Party cadres fell ill, they sought out every medical help, even visiting doctors in Beijing, but often to no avail. So, many of these women came home to Henan to die. In the villages there were many elderly Christian women who had not been able to go to church for nearly twenty years. Although all their Bibles had been confiscated they were still strong in faith and knew how to pray. They went into the homes of these commune cadres bringing the love of Christ and preaching Jesus, the Great Healer. Many of those desperate women received Christ as their Saviour. After they recovered they asked for further instruction from these elderly Christian women who were simple peasants. So many meetings actually started in the homes of local Communist cadres.” [T. Lambert, China’s Christian millions, p.75]
By the turn of the 21st century the government recognised churches accounted for 5% of a population of 96 million in Henan province, but this does not include the estimated 9% of the population involved in unregistered churches in the province. That equates to approximately 13 million people attending church.
Several things struck me from this story.
On a personal level, it’s a real challenge to consider how I would respond if all the churches in the UK were closed down and all Bibles were confiscated. Would I be true to Christ and the Christian faith for 20 years or more during such dark days?
On a corporate level, I find it interesting that those who sparked a revival of people coming to Christ and attending church in difficult circumstances were not the pastors or the gifted evangelists. Rather they were elderly peasant woman who prayed. Don’t ever think you are too old or too poor or too anything to spark a revival. Prayer in the hands of a mighty God can achieve miraculous things.
And on a sovereign level this story tells me that God is in charge. Even though things looked bleak for the Christians in Henan province God was in control and was able to bring forth spiritual fruit and growth at the right time for his honour and glory.
Truly God turned their mourning into dancing, and he can do the same for us as we trust in and wait for him.
Father, as the Psalmist says, when you turn my mourning into dancing may I praise you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever.
Have a good week trusting and waiting for God.