Her radiance was simply irresistible.
Moving through the crowd of people, her smile reached the crow’s feet at the corners of her twinkling eyes as she greeted each person with a kind word.
I sighed in the corner, content to watch her interactions with the mob surrounding her.
“Oh Asheritah,” she exclaimed as she walked up to me. “I didn’t see you there! How happy I am to see you!” She wrapped me in an embrace before I could even say “hello,” and instantly a light was kindled in my heart. Just a few moments with this dear woman felt like being in the presence of Jesus.
You may not have heard of her, but to me and many other Romanian young women, Silvia Tarniceriu is a modern hero of the faith.
The Fellowship of His Sufferings
Silvia had grown up in communist Romania and defied government orders when she continued to teach her Sunday School children about Jesus. Imprisoned for her faith, she was humiliated and tortured, urged day after day to forget her God.
Silvia refused to budge. And the torment increased.
In her memoir, God Knows My Size, she writes how the systematic brainwashing led to a dullness of mind. For months she wasn’t able to remember a single Bible verse or worship song. Despair set in as she fought to keep her dignity and memory.
After she was forced to clean human waste with her bare hands, she tells how she lay on a straw cot and begged desperately for a word from God. And after months of silence, the Word came: “Love your enemies.” Silvia initially fought the command; she begged for a word of encouragement or comfort instead. Yet when no other word came, she obeyed and showed kindness to the prison guards who mocked her.
Instantly, out of nowhere, she heard the words, “He restoreth my soul.” In that moment, the promises of God poured into her heart and lifted her soul soul with an inexplicable lightness. Though she was still behind prison walls, she had been set free.
The Power of His Resurrection
Silvia was eventually released, and she escaped to the United States.
Rather than settle into a comfortable life, Silvia Tarniceriu became a spokesperson for the persecuted church and traveled the world, tirelessly advocating for those who were suffering for the Gospel.
Wherever she went she left a “sweet aroma of the knowledge of Christ.” This was a woman whose daily devotions were no chore but rather a way of life. She spoke fondly of her conversations with her Lord, hand over heart and gaze upward as she retold what her Beloved had shared with her that day.
Silvia’s joy was not quenched by the breast cancer or pancreatic cancer that plagued her body. Year after year she battled one illness after another, continuing to shine the light of Jesus everywhere she went, writing and speaking, urging listeners to receive the grace of Jesus and walk with Him every day.
Joy in Suffering
In the Fall of 2013, Silvia’s health took a turn for the worse. During the last church service she attended, her brothers carried her to the front of the little sanctuary so she could share a few last words with her local congregation.
Tears stung my eyes as I watched this frail woman, wracked with physical agony, beam as she spoke of the joy of the presence of the Lord. She looked lovingly at the congregation torn by frivolous disputes and urged us to be filled with the Spirit, to allow Him to seep into our lives and flow over into love and compassion toward one another.
Even a few days away from death, this dear woman radiated the glory of God. In that musty prison cell years ago, her choice to obey led to the light of heaven flooding her heart, and that experience transformed the rest of her life.
For Silvia, to live was to walk with Christ, and to die was a great gain because she could finally see her Savior face to face and rejoice in His presence.
A Sweet Aroma & Shining Light
Silvia was a shining light not because she was anything special but because she let The Light shine through her, from the way she made a new acquaintance feel at ease, to the way she hosted travelers in her home, to the way she prepared a simple dinner.
And, like her, those who belong to Jesus have His Light in us.
Those who are used most powerfully by God are the women and men who place themselves at His disposal and allow Him to fill them to overflowing.
I learned from Silvia that Jesus invites us to partake of both the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering–and He gives abundant joy in each experience.
Silvia is now worshiping her sweet Jesus unencumbered by physical ailments or vicious prison guards. And she’s part of the great cloud of witnesses urging us to run with perseverance the race set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus. For the joy set before us.
(If you would like to know more about Silvia’s life story, I highly recommend you read her biography God Knows My Size. I had the privilege of working with her on several writing projects, but this book is by far the best rendition of her story. Silvia’s engaging storytelling will make you laugh out loud and weep alongside her as she discovers that the God of the universe cares about her.)
Asheritah is a writer, speaker, and blogger at OneThingAlone.com. There she helps overwhelmed women find joy in Jesus through devotionals, videos, and Scripture art. She’s also the author of the upcoming Advent devotional, “Unwrapping the Names of Jesus: Finding Joy in the Gift.” She’d love for you to join her at OneThingAlone.com to share a streusel blueberry muffin and hear your story of faith. [Photo Credit here.]
This post is part of the My Faith Heroine Series in conjunction with the release of
50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Heroines of the Faith.
Click here to read other posts in the #MyFaithHeroine series.
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