I recalled again Richard’s words: Hell is to sit alone in darkness remembering past sins. Old memories burned like fire. You had no defense – no books, no radios, no distraction, no place to go when they came buzzing at you. Here self-deception ceased. Theories about new moral concepts didn’t help. Here you knew that the new morality was the old lasciviousness. Helena’s remorse was terrible. I knew what she was feeling.
Nearly every woman in prison felt similar burning remorse. Nearly everyone was religious in some degree. Outspoken atheists surprised themselves by calling on God. Everyone wished to have her prayer heard.
But their prayers were wrong. It was like praying that two and two should be something other than four. Accumulation of sins can only bring unhappiness and remorse. It was over sexual feelings-adulteries, betrayals, abortions- that regret was most poignant. Women longed to talk about it and ease the pain. I remembered the words of David who had committed such a sin: “Blessed is he…whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1). So covered by God that there is no need to uncover it before men.
This is from a book by Sabina Wurmbrand entitled The Pastor’s Wife. The book is Sabina’s story of her life and imprisonment under the communist regime in Romania. Her experiences are far beyond anything I could imagine. While she is at Labor Camp, a detestable and horrifying place, she tells of some of the women there who are without Christ.
As we read her reflections above, we can’t help but turn our thoughts inward. How about us? How would we fare languishing in prison or labor camp without any distractions? No iPhones, no computers, no TVs, no movies, no radios? Where would our thoughts turn when all we had to do was think during the dark, lonely hours in a room full of strangers? What sins would haunt us? What choices and decisions would we regret?
How would we find a spirit of gratitude and compassion amidst all of the turmoil and filth? Could we sing praises in the midst of starvation? Would we be thankful if we lacked almost every comfort we have now? Could we maintain our Christian testimony while trudging over miles of plains to get to work and then baking in the hot sun, hoeing for the whole day, without any water?
And, as I read of her experiences, there was another question I had to seriously ask myself: How much of God’s Word would I remember if I were thrown into prison without access to a written copy? I felt ashamed to admit the truth.
I believe that in this day and age, we are so lost in our distractions. We drink and eat and take pills to medicate ourselves and our pain. We watch movies, read books, and go to concerts in an effort to escape our real lives. But what if our real lives – the lives we are living right at this very moment – is all that we have? Sabina Wurmbrand goes on to talk about a society lady a few paragraphs later:
“What’s your conclusion?” she asked, brushing back her greasy hair with a gesture that belonged to her “smart-set” days. “You’ve seen it all- what do you think? For myself, I’ve only one thought left: if I could go free, I’d live happily on a crust for the rest of my life.”
Like many of her type, she had a deep sense of guilt for frittering her life away. Often she’s spoken to me hesitatingly, hinting at some inner torment that she’d like to reveal.
Guilt for frittering her life away. Wow – that hit me hard. Am I frittering my life away? Am I doing anything that matters with the time I have been given? This is such an important question to ask ourselves.
And, so, most of us sit here reading this thinking we would never find ourselves in prison or labor camp. This is America, after all. Who really cares? How does this matter? But I believe Sabina’s words beg us to answer two questions—
1. Am I deceiving myself?
2. What am I doing with my life that matters?