Richard Wurmbrand’s The Overcomers Chapter 4
Great love for Christ is one of the quickest ways to ascend to a mastery of life. One such master is Bishop Victor Belikh, a Ukrainian Christian whom I met in Kishinev. He had spent twenty-four years in Communist jails. The first twenty he passed in solitary confinement without ever knowing anything about his family and friends. He was allowed no family visits and no correspondence.
Every evening a straw mattress was put in a cell for him to sleep for seven hours. In the morning it was taken away. The rest of the time he was not allowed to lie down on the cold concrete, nor was he allowed to sit or stand still on it. For seventeen hours a day he had to walk around his cell uninterruptedly, as horses do in a circus. He was surveyed by jailers through the peephole in the cell door. If he stopped or broke down, they threw buckets of water on him or beat him and he was forced to continue. After twenty years of such a regime, he was sent for another four years to forced labor in northern Siberia, where the ice never melts.
I asked him, “How could you bear this suffering after the years in solitary confinement and a starvation diet?”
He replied singing a song he composed: “With the flames of love’s fire that Jesus kindled in my heart, I caused the ice of Siberia to melt. Hallelujah!” His face shone. The Bible writes that the face of Stephen, first martyr of Christianity, shone when he was sentenced to death.
I did not feel worthy to stand before such a man. What an honor Jesus gave me to be called a “brother in faith” by such a man, to have become a member of a family that breeds such exemplary humans! But more than that, the possibility is given to each of us to become such conquerors of life. This is not only the grace of God but also assiduous work on your own character. It is as if at birth we are given a block of marble, a hammer, a chisel, and are told, “You can hew out of this the image of an emperor.” Jesus does not wish to be the only most holy Person, but the first among many brothers and sisters of the same kind. We are all called to be holy.
Men put into Belikh’s situation are rare, but many men in deportation, in labor camps, in places devastated by war and revolution, even many poor in rich countries, have no shelter from the cold. But there is another kind of cold. It is often icy cold in well-to-do homes. Love has grown cold. There is no longer a smile or a pleasant gesture for those who were once loved. Spouses, parents, children, friends have become alienated from each other.
In Jesus’ time there was no electricity. The smallest light had to be kept burning. There were not even matches to kindle a fire. One had to be very thrifty. Jesus says about himself that “He will not quench a smoking flax.” When I was in jail, we blew again and again on what seemed no more than the remembrance of a fire that had gone out, and we succeeded in bringing it to life again. If everyone around you is icy, don’t despair. Ice can be made to melt if the fire of Jesus’ love burns in your heart.