“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-4
Esther Ahn Kim was born in Korea in the early 20th Century when there was a radical political struggle occurring between Korea, China, Japan and Russia.
The day that Esther was born was a day of great disappointment for her family because she was a girl and not a boy. As Esther’s bitter and displeased father held her thin and sickly body in the palm of his hand, somehow he found it within himself to declare, “Poor baby, don’t die. But be a great person.”
Esther’s mother had been introduced to the Jesus of the Bible by American missionaries when she was a young girl; Esther’s father worshipped the Shinto idols. As Esther grew into a young woman, she observed in her mother great joy and peace. However, in her father’s side of the family there was a legacy of anger, bitterness and hatred. The dichotomy in which Esther was raised had the power to wound her for life but Esther chose to nestle into the faith of her mother and so found protection from the rejection and hatred expressed by her father.
Esther Ahn Kim’s mother had no Bible but remembered 4 principles taught to her by the American missionaries:
1 – Jesus is the only Son of God and is the only Savior.
2 – Jesus will never forsake His believers.
3 – Jesus is able to take all of our misfortunes and turn them into good.
4 – Jesus hears the prayers of His children.
In 1939, when Esther was a young music teacher, although she taught in a Christian school, shrine worship was forced upon her. The authorities forced everyone in Korea, and especially the Christians, to worship at the feet of their gods. As Esther made her way up the mountain with her class of girls, Esther purposed in her heart that she would never bow before the idols but only at the feet of Jesus, her Savior.
When Esther made that decision, peace filled her heart and she could barely keep from singing! She was thrilled not to live her youthful life for herself but as a fragrant offering to the Lord. Esther was even joyful that she had been born in such an age of bitterness and conflict.
Esther had to go to the mountain or her principal and perhaps her students would be tortured. She marched toward her fiery furnace while a civil war raged in her young soul.
“Attention!” The shrill voice on the public address system drilled into Esther’s heart. Hundreds of thousands of people straightened line by line, accustomed to enforced subservience. “Our profoundest bow to the sun-goddess!”
As if one uninterrupted person, the massive crowd of humanity obeyed the shouted order and bowed solemnly and deeply to the caricature of the divine. Only one remained erect with her face looking toward heaven and her hands reaching toward the sky in worship. Esther Ahn Kim refused to cave into a diabolical and angry culture. She worshipped the God of all creation while others bowed in fear to fiction.
Because Esther was a teacher, she was considered a leader in her community and was constantly watched by the officials. The military was waiting for her when she returned to her classroom and four burley men led this tiny young lady toward prison. By a miracle of God, she was able to escape from jail and returned to her mother’s home.
“The Japanese were crushing untold numbers of believers under their cruel, iron heel in Korea, but actually they had to stand powerless before the Lord. Just as the stars in the sky would not change, God’s laws would not change. I wished to shine in the black night sky of my beloved country like a changeless star.”
Her mother prepared her for the torturous rigors of prison and during these days of preparation, Esther memorized hundreds of chapters in the well-worn family Bible. She slept without a quilt to prepare herself for the cold and discomfort of prison and ate rotten fruit in order to adjust her digestive system for the substandard food that would be fed to her while in confinement. Esther fasted for days at a time to strengthen her resolve that she would live through her time in prison.
Esther was not afraid of dying but was afraid of being tortured and not dying. When Esther Ahn talked with her mother about her fears of prison and the weakness of her soul, her mother responded with this wisdom that is still applicable today, “It might even be a truer picture of the believer to agonize, to suffer, to be hated and tortured, and even to be killed in obeying God’s words rather than to live an ordinary, uneventful life.”
As Esther and her mother hid in the cold, Korean mountains while preparing Esther for what was ahead of her, Esther would often roam the uninhabited rugged wilderness around their borrowed cabin. It was during this time of preparation that Esther Ahn found the strength and joy of singing to the Lord. She sang the great hymns of the faith that thousands had sung before her:
“Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus it is He, Lord Sabaoth His Name,
from age to age the same, and He must win the battle.”
I have discovered as did Esther Ahn Kim, that the ability to worship during the worst days of my life is an unconquerable strategy for both spiritual and emotional victory. My friend, when you can’t do anything else … you can sing! When you are weakened by the onslaught of people and events … you can sing! When the bills are not paid and the doctor only has bad news … you can still sing! When you are deep in the throes of grief and the mental anxious is toxic … you can still sing!
Esther Ahn’s story will be continued tomorrow in Day 11 of “21 Days to Beat Depression!”
MAKING IT PRACTICAL –
1 – As you have read the first part of the story of Esther Ahn Kim, did you realize that you have brought the pain of yesterday into your present life? It is time to leave the pain and dysfunction of your past behind and enjoy the gift of today. Write down 3 happy childhood memories that you have. Think about those things today.
2 – “Thanksgiving in January and February!” is calling your name! You thought it was difficult coming up with 3 things to be thankful for daily?! Today … just for one day … let’s come up with 5 new things for which we are grateful! And, as always, share some of them with your friends and family on Facebook or on Twitter. #beatdepression!
I declare today that I will not be in bondage to the pain of my past! I declare that today is a new day that the Lord has made and I WILL rejoice and be glad in it!
PRAYER FOR TODAY –
“Lord Jesus, I love You so much and I want to tell You today that You are the reason that I live. You are the reason that I sing! Thank You for the song and for the life that You have so graciously given to me. I purpose to serve You, and only You, all of the days of my life! In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.”