Her Closet Was Her Refuge

Neal Pollard

42-year-old Sefa Cebeci was with her husband in a seven-story building in Duzce, Turkey, when just before 7:00 P.M. local time on November 12, 1999, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake shook the city.  The building collapsed, and when all was said and done nearly 1,000 people were dead—including Sefa’s husband who was right beside her.  Despite rescue team leaders from some countries calling off the search for survivors after three days, an Israeli team pulled her from the rubble after nearly 5 days without food and water.  She would have to have an arm amputated and her kidney failure from dehydration nearly killed her.  She was able to survive in freezing temperatures for 105 hours under tons of concrete. How? A closet fell on top of her and protected her from her collapsed house.  Her closet became her refuge (facts via BBC News articles, 5/11/13 and 11/17/99).

Have you ever noticed a Christian whose life seemed to be crashing in all around them?  You would not imagine they could survive the spiritual carnage.  Yet, they survive.  The reasons certainly vary, but one variable that has to be in place for them has to do with their “closet.”  Do you remember in Jesus’ great sermon that He said to “enter into thy closet” to pray rather make a vain, public show of prayer (cf. Mat. 6:6, KJV)?  That word “closet,” variously translated “inner room,” “your room,” “private room,” and “inner chamber” is one found almost exclusively in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) and the gospels.  It is translated “storehouse” or “warehouse” (Luke 12:24; Mat. 24:26), but also “bedroom” or “chamber” (Gen. 43:30; 2 Ki. 6:12; Zodhiates, Spiros. The complete word study dictionary: New Testament 2000: n. pag. Print).  It refers to any place of privacy where one cannot be easily seen (ibid.).

Isn’t that where spiritual survival is made or broken, not necessarily and not primarily in our public assemblies or fellowship activities but in private?  When I am alone, do I seek refuge by entering into the closet of prayer, study, and private devotion?  In happy, prosperous times, I should be found there.  It will prepare me for calamitous, catastrophic events.  When my life is shaken to the core, I will survive if in my closet.

Jesus does not specify what kind of reward enjoyed by those whose prayer life is genuine rather than showy, but certainly there is no greater reward than enduring the trials of life spiritually intact. We may come away scarred and hurt, but we will survive!  Be a spiritual survivor!  Spend as much time as you can in your closet.

Actual photo of Sefa Cebeci in an Istanbul hospital (1999)

 

3 thoughts on “Her Closet Was Her Refuge

  1. How can we teach others if we fail to survive the worst troubles we can imagine? In Amos, we learned in Bible study recently, that God sent difficult times on the Israelites on purpose in order to wake them up and repent. God is not absent when times are tough. The closet saving her life story really made me gasp when I realized the point you were making. God does provide a way of escape, and in this case, a way of survival — with escape on the way. Great story and article. Thank you.

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