Officials arrested Andrew and Norine Brunson in 2016 when they applied for permanent visas in Turkey, where they’d lived and ministered for 23 years. Authorities released Norine 13 days later, but Andrew remained in prison for two years, accused of being a spy.
Norine stayed in Turkey after her release, advocating for Andrew’s freedom and helping to lead the church they’d planted. Andrew’s forthcoming book, God’s Hostage (Baker, October 2019), details the Brunson’s story of imprisonment and perseverance. CT spoke with Norine about the spiritual habits that strengthened her during her years of ministry and that sustained her marriage and her faith during persecution.
Your husband, Andrew, has said, “Norine was stronger than I was.” This strength came from a reservoir in your soul because of your daily time spent with God for years prior to the ordeal. What did that spiritual habit look like for you?
Well, it’s looked different depending on the season of life. There’s no single prescription. But I always include time in prayer and the Scriptures. And when I read the Word, I try to align myself with it. Like when I read, “Arm yourself with the same attitude” as Christ, in his suffering, I say, “Yes, Lord. Let me have that.” I also make it a habit to write down answers to prayer, blessings, things I am thankful for.
There were days during Andrew’s imprisonment where I would say, “Okay, Lord. I have prayed everything I know. Here I am again.” There is something about just sitting in the Lord’s presence. Just being. Does my mind wander when I spend time with the Lord? Absolutely. Do I check my phone? Often. That’s just the reality. But I’m persuaded that time with the Lord is essential. How can we have a relationship with God unless we spend time with God? It’s like putting reserves in your spirit. Then the Holy Spirit brings it up when it’s needed.
Were there other spiritual habits that were significant in your relationship with God before you and Andrew were arrested?
Andrew has always been a worshiper, and this carried into the church and has influenced me. Fasting is also a habit of our spiritual life—not all the time, but for specific situations in ministry or our family.
One time several years ago, I fasted specifically regarding my fear of persecution. I was afraid of being tortured, to be honest. And I was saying, “Lord, prepare me for anything like this that I might face.” Not that there was any particular threat at that time—it has just been a fear of mine. Fear is something I have way too much of, and I know God wants to change that.
During the two years Andrew was imprisoned, what did your spiritual life look like? How did you grow?
I was so aware that I couldn’t do it alone. It was so hard to get out of bed in the morning. I’d sleep well, but then I’d wake and think, Oh. We’re still here. It was so hard to get out of bed. Very hard. Really hard.
So I would put my hand up every day before I got out of bed and say, “Okay, Lord. I’m taking your hand. Walk through this day with me.”
And then at some point it shifted. Not like, “Okay, God. I’m taking your hand. Walk through this day with me.” But me saying, “God, you lead this day. I’m with you.” I would submit every interaction, every thought, every emotion, every minute, and just really, really, thoroughly say, “Lord, you lead and hold me through this day, as well as Andrew and our kids. But you lead.”
I think I grew in awareness of my dependence on God and also in willingness to let the Spirit lead me in my day instead of trying to control my schedule.
You’re a mom of three. What was God teaching you as a parent during this time?
You know, that was one of the hardest things. When I was first arrested, I didn’t know if we were going to get out. I said, “Okay, Lord. You have to take care of my kids.” Because all of a sudden, you are powerless. I couldn’t get any word to them or do anything. I was like, “This is way beyond me. Lord, You’re on. You have to do it.”
Obviously, I should say I learned to trust more. Did I or did I not? I don’t know. I hope so.
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Source: Christianity Today