WASHINGTON, February 10, 2015 — Perhaps only former hostages can comprehend what 26-year-old American aid worker Kayla Mueller endured during her imprisonment. But one thing is clear for all of us to see: Despite her captivity by the brutal Islamic State, Mueller was an example of integrity and strength.
In an August 2013 letter to her parents, Mueller does not complain about her sufferings; she worries that her family is suffering:
“I wanted to write you all a well thought out letter (but I didn’t know if my cell mates would be leaving in the coming days or the coming months restricting my time but primarily) I could only but write the letter a paragraph at a time, just the thought of you all sends me into a fit of tears. If you could say I have ‘suffered’ at all throughout this whole experience it is only in knowing how much suffering I have put you all through; I will never ask you to forgive me as I do not deserve forgiveness. I remember mom always telling me that all in all in the end the only one you really have is God. I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator b/c literally there was no else … + by God + by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall.”
The Kayla of this letter is reminiscent of the Apostle Paul, who though he suffered in prison, wrote letters of encouragement — the Epistles — to his companions. Paul worried that Timothy and others worried about him. He wanted his friends in Christ to be strong, no matter the outcome, and to know God was in control.
Kayla wrote to her parents, “If you could say I have ‘suffered’ at all throughout this whole experience it is only in knowing how much suffering I have put you all through.” Kayla’s suffering is for her parents, who labor under the crushing pressure and dread of knowing that their daughter is in the hands of heartless terrorists.
Kayla Mueller exemplifies courage through faith. A woman broken-hearted over her separation from her family under the cruelest of circumstances, she consoled her family rather than herself:
“I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it. I pray each day that if nothing else, you have felt a certain closeness + surrender to God as well + have formed a bond of love + support amongst one another … I miss you all as if it has been a decade of forced separation.”
It is hard for those of us who have never endured such horrors to fathom such depth of strength. But others have endured. The diaries and letters they have written while in captivity express this same amazing spirit. Anne Frank’s diary demonstrates the amazing courage inside that kept a young girl going until her death. How do these people endure? How did they face life under so much horror with so much courage?
Kayla tells her parents, “I have a lot of fight left inside of me. I am not breaking down + I will not give in no matter how long it takes. I wrote a song some months ago that says, ‘The part of me that pains the most also gets me out of bed, w/out your hope there would be nothing left …’ aka- The thought of your pain is the source of my own, simultaneously the hope of our reunion is the source of my strength. Please be patient, give your pain to God.”
God is her strength to never give up no matter what.
There is no hatred, no bitterness inside this young woman; only love.
“I know you would want me to remain strong. That is exactly what I am doing. Do not fear for me, continue to pray as will I + by God’s will we will be together soon.”
Some people reject God because of suffering. They say, a loving, powerful God would have freed Kayla. But Kayla herself demands nothing from God. She never blames Him, she trusts Him all the more and refuses to give up no matter what.
Kayla Mueller’s courage is the face of the goodness that endures in this world. We can look at her life and remember that there are people who care for the needy, who tend to the sick and the lost. They do not wage terror and murder, but instead bless the lives of those around them.
Because of people like Kayla Mueller, we have hope for a better world. She expresses that true hope: No matter what comes, “never give up,” and “give your pain to God.”