How far would you go?

I was recently introduced to a woman I had never heard of before until I read the book (and watched the DVD series) "Epic: An Around-the-World Journey through Christian History" by Tim Challies. Of all the people he introduces his reader to, it was this woman - Marie Durand - who stood out to me more than others.

Let me share her story with you through Tim's pen and see how it inspires your own faith in today's culture:

"Marie’s story is best told alongside that of her brother Pierre, for their lives and fates were inextricably intertwined. Both were faithful to their God and both suffered deeply but willingly. Marie Durand was born to her mother, Claudine, and father, Étienne, in the tiny village of Bouschet de Pranles on July 15, 1711. Her brother, Pierre, had been born eleven years before. Although Marie was baptized Roman Catholic, she was raised Protestant. While she was still a child, her brother began to rise in prominence as a young leader among the Huguenot (Reformed Protestants) preachers. He soon began to preach at secret gatherings, and as word got out he was forced into hiding from the Roman Catholic authorities. In 1719 soldiers raided an underground service, and though Pierre escaped, he had no choice but to flee to Switzerland for safety, where he had the privilege of receiving formal theological training. That same year, when Marie was just eight years old, Claudine was found to be hosting Protestant meetings in her home and was arrested. Seven years would pass before the family received any news of her, and tragically it was the news of her death. Thus, as a young child Marie was permanently separated from her mother and raised primarily by her father.

"In 1726 Pierre was ordained as a minister, and he returned to France to preach. Two years later, hoping to catch Pierre, soldiers raided his father’s home, where they found a forbidden Bible and psalter. They threatened his father with arrest unless Pierre would agree to permanently leave France, and when Pierre refused his father was sent to Fort Brescou, a terrible island prison off the coast of France. Shortly after this, Marie married Mathieu Serre, but because of their connection to Pierre, both were arrested and sent to separate prisons. Mathieu was sent to Fort Brescou, and Marie to the Tower of Constance in Aigues-Mortes.

"Marie was just eighteen years old when she was confined to that tower. She would be fifty-seven before she was released.

"The Tower of Constance had been built almost five hundred years earlier as a military garrison. It is a circular stone building rising 130 feet and spanning 70 feet in diameter. Its walls are as much as 20 feet thick and designed to withstand great bombardments. By Marie’s time it had long been used as a prison. Following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which sanctioned the persecution of Protestants in France, the tower was used primarily to imprison Protestant women. Along with thirty or so other women, Marie was confined in the tower, living in barbaric conditions. The guards lived on the ground floor, and the prisoners were above them on the second floor, which was one large, circular room. A hole in the center of the room resembling a well was the means through which the guards would pass up food, water, and other necessities. Apart from that small means of contact, the women were kept in isolation.

"Even as they suffered day after day, the women were provided a straightforward path to freedom. All they needed to do to be released was to summon the local priest and speak the words, “I recant.” They only needed to deny their Protestant “heresies,” embrace the Catholic faith, and they could go free. But Marie steadfastly refused. And this is where it was helpful to make a careful search of the tower. As I looked carefully along the edge of the well in the center of the room, I found a word carved into the stone, a word that has long been attributed to Marie. It is simply the French word register, or “resist.” It is a word of commitment to the cause of Christ, a word that challenges any who would stand on the edge and consider calling down for the priest. Resist! Resist the temptation to recant. Resist the temptation to compromise and, instead, choose to remain in Christ. For decades Marie resisted, and as she did so, she became a leader among the other women in worship and devotion. For decades she maintained her convictions and remained in that tower.

"Marie’s brother, Pierre, was betrayed and arrested in 1732, and he went to his death singing psalms. Although he had pleaded to have his family members released, his request was refused and Marie continued to languish in prison. Ten years later their father, Étienne, was finally released, and though Marie’s husband, Mathieu, would also be released seven years later, it was under the condition that he leave France and never return. He and Marie never saw one another again.

"In 1767, after almost four decades of living in the tower, Marie and the other prisoners finally received some hope of relief. A local prince had learned of the conditions at the prison, and in shock and horror at what was being done, he ordered the release of its prisoners, even against the wishes of King Louis XV. Marie was finally set free on April 14, 1768, at the age of fifty-seven. She had been in the Tower of Constance for thirty-eight years, and upon release she returned home alone. She died at her home in 1776 at the age of sixty-five, having spent the vast majority of her life in captivity. A decade later Louis XVI would sign the Edict of Toleration, which once again allowed some freedom to France’s Protestants, but it was not until the devastating French Revolution that Catholic persecution would end at last, sweeping away the monarchy and finally allowing the free exercise of religion."

Thirty-eight years!!! She remained in the prison for 38 years in terrible conditions, and all she had to do was say two little words... and she refused! For the sake of Christ!

O, that I would have a faith in the Lord to "resist" such conditions.

How about you?

What does the Lord mean to you?

Don't we all need encouragement to resist recanting our faith in today's culture?

Lord, keep us. Keep us in You. May we experience the freshness of knowing You, our Savior and Lord. Come what may, hold us as we cling to You!

Be encouraged church!

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