In 1685, King Louis XIV reinstated Roman Catholicism as the only authorized religion in France. Protestant worship and education were expressly forbidden. French Protestants, known as Huguenots, faced two options: leave France or suffer the penalties imposed by the law for practicing their faith—imprisonment, death, or slavery. Over the next one hundred years, roughly 200,000 Huguenots fled the country.
Among those who did not were Etienne and Glaudine Durand. This devout couple chose to remain in their homeland, raise a family, and continue practicing their faith. They gave birth to a girl in 1715 whom they named Marie. When Marie was only 4 years of age, her mother was arrested after attending a secret Protestant service and died shortly thereafter. At 13, Marie’s father was arrested.
Marie inherited her parents’ courage and determination. She loved the Bible and, more importantly, the Christ of the Scriptures. Two years after her father had been taken by the authorities, Marie and her newly wed husband were apprehended. It was the year 1730. Marie was taken to the Tower of Constance in Aigues-Mortes. She never saw her husband again. She was 15 years old.
Because Marie refused to renounce her faith, she remained locked in the Tower of Constance for almost four decades. Conditions were horrific. It was cold. Quarters were cramped. Prisoners were malnourished. Little light and air came through the narrow openings in the walls that served as windows.
In his book, Passion, Karl Olsson writes: “To sit in a prison room with thirty others and to see the day change into night and summer into autumn, to feel the slow systemic changes within one’s flesh: the drying and wrinkling of the skin, the loss of muscle tone, the stiffening of the joints, the slow stupefaction of the senses—to feel all this and still to persevere seems almost idiotic to a generation which has no capacity to wait and endure.”
All Marie had to do to end her misery was recant. Olsson picks up: “(Marie) was not asked to commit an immoral act, to become a criminal, or even to change the day-to-day quality of her behavior. She was only asked to say, ‘J’abjure.’ No more, no less. She did not comply…For thirty-eight years she (remained steadfast)…And instead of the hated words J’abjure she, together with her fellow martyrs, scratched on the wall of the prison tower the single word Resistez, resist!”
Surely Marie could not have anticipated as a little girl sitting on her father’s lap or taking walks through the countryside with her brother the fate that would await her in the years ahead. Undoubtedly she could never have imagined the excruciating pain and grief before her. She lived life—and lived it well—in an unplanned place.
Some of you are in a very unplanned place. Perhaps you are behind bars for a crime you deeply regret committing or are recovering from a terrible accident in a rehabilitation center. Maybe you find yourself in an abusive marriage or still single after many long years of searching for the right partner. Perhaps you are unemployed for the first time in your life or caring for aging and sickly parents. Whatever it is, this is not the life you expected. You are in an unplanned place.
So what empowers the fortitude and resilience needed in times of great difficulty? How do you exert the patience necessary to not become embittered, and more, to move forward and prosper?
James tells us: “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming…be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near” (5:7-8). The Lord is coming. James links patience with hope. He calls believers to be patient in light of what (I should say who) is ahead—the Lord! He is coming. He will arrive. He will intervene.
And he will reward. James reminds us of Job and all the suffering he experienced: “You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about” (v. 11). Anyone who has read the last chapter of Job knows that the prophet was rewarded double for his patience.
But the key to all this is faith. Pastor and author John Piper writes, “The strength of patience hangs on our capacity to believe that God is up to something good for us in all our delays and detours.” In the midst of all our interruptions, we must have faith in the sovereign purposes of God to bring something magnificent to pass. We must believe that God is coming and with his coming, he will turn all barriers into glorious blessings.
James concludes his exhortation with these encouraging words, “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” He will not permit you to be tempted beyond what you can bear (1 Cor. 10:13). He “remembers that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14). He is kind and can be trusted.
Hang in there, friend. Unplanned places bring unplanned graces.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)