Devotion Worldwide | 5-4-2023

Peace In Our Fear—North Korean Believer Shares Easter Hope


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“I prayed to the Lord: ‘Please, Father, let me worship You there!’ At first there was no answer.” —Hea-Woo*, a North Korean believer

“… the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders…” (John 20:19)

The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday isn’t literally the longest day of the year—but it can certainly feel like it. On Good Friday, Christians all over the world remember the atoning work of Christ on the cross, and thank Him for his victory over sin, evil and death. And on Easter Sunday, we celebrate His resurrection, the action that gives us the hope of being with God forever and the promise that God will never leave us.

But on Saturday? We wait. 

The Bible doesn’t tell us much about what happened on that Saturday (often called Holy Saturday). The gospel of Matthew (chapter 27) shows how the chief priests and Pharisees asked Pilate to secure Jesus’ tomb so no one could claim He had risen. But that’s all we get.

Locked in fear

However, John 20 gives us a clue of what the disciples, Jesus’ followers and closest friends, might have been doing. John 20:19 tells us that, even after Jesus had been seen in the garden outside His tomb, the disciples were gathered together—and had locked the doors because they were terrified of the Jewish leaders.

Think about what they were feeling. Their Lord and teacher had been murdered in front of them by the Roman state. The religious leaders had prodded the people to accept a murderer—Barabbas—instead of freeing Jesus. The disciples knew they were hated, and that what happened to Jesus could easily happen to them. 

This is the same tension experienced by persecuted Christians. They have to grapple with the daily fear of the “leaders”—their family, community, government, friends or sometimes all of the above. 

Hea-Woo's wait

Consider the story of Hea-Woo*. She’s a North Korean Christian who now lives in South Korea. She became a Christian and got her first Bible in a safe house where Open Doors maintains a network of safe houses for North Korean believers who are able to get out of the country.  

When she was in the safe house, there was a big church near her. She saw people coming and going, and her heart hurt as she realized she couldn’t go—if she was caught by the authorities, she’d be deported to North Korea, and her presence could be dangerous for the church, as well. “I prayed to the Lord: ‘Please, Father, let me worship You there!’ At first there was no answer,” she says.


Hea-Woo was living in the spirit of Holy Saturday—longing for the hope of Jesus, but not sure what was going to happen.

Hea-Woo was living in the spirit of Holy Saturday—longing for the hope of Jesus, but not sure what was going to happen. 

Perhaps you’re feeling what the disciples felt—fear that’s keeping your heart locked up. Or maybe you’re wondering, like Hea-Woo, where God is when you need Him. This is the comfort of Holy Saturday: these feelings aren’t too big for Jesus. Christians around the world and since the beginning of God’s story have felt this way, too!

We don't have to stay in Saturday

“Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’”

John 20:19
But the good news of the gospel is that we don’t have to stay in Saturday. When the clock rolls over, we proclaim “He is Risen!”—and Easter bursts in. John 20:19 starts with Jesus’ disciples locked in a room, huddled in fear—but the verse ends with this: “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’”

Jesus’ presence chases out the fear of the unknown. His resurrection gives us hope! “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life,” writes Paul in Romans 6:4 (ESV). 

Hea-Woo experienced this, too. Even as she was longing to worship God, and wondering at the lack of answer, Jesus showed up. 

“One night, I laid on my straw matrass on the floor,” she remembers.” It was completely dark. Suddenly, I saw a lit square on the ceiling. It scared me, because all the lights in the room were off. In the square was a number: 495. I wondered what it meant.”

  She thought about it. “It must be something from the Bible,” she told herself. However, as far as she knew, there was no chapter or even verse 495 in the Bible. Then it hit her. Maybe it wasn’t a Bible reference. Maybe it was a hymn number. She switched the lights on and grabbed a Korean hymnal book and turned to hymn 495. She started reading the lyrics, and finally came to these lines in verse three: 

Wherever Jesus is, heaven is there.

What does it matter where on earth I dwell? 
Wherever Jesus is, heaven is there.

“Now I realized what God was telling me,” Hea-Woo says. “I didn’t have to worship Christ in a specific building. I could worship Him anywhere.” God had broken through. The power of resurrection had come rushing in to remind Hea-Woo that there is hope. 

This year, as you come to Saturday, thank God for the hope He offers to all of us in our uncertainty and fear. He didn’t leave Hea-Woo or His disciples—and He won’t leave you, either. Praise God. 

*Name has been changed to protect identity