After keenly following discussions on this particular story that has got social media buzzing for the past number of days, I have decided to pour in my bit. It is so disturbing to get to know that the news announcing the passing away of Sister Osinachi Nwachukwu, a renowned Nigerian gospel musician who shook the world with her most anointed music ministry, is true, at least according to social media. There is this thing about social media: you don’t trust it when the news just pours in and when it is quite scattered, but you can trust it when the news is sustained for a long time, and it keeps flooding on everyone’s page. Well, the latter has been the case of the alleged death of our beloved Sister Osinachi.
It is reported that the death of this renowned gospel artiste of 42 years occurred in the Nigerian capital of Abuja on Friday 8th April 2022, after being hospitalized for some few days. Social media said she had continually been abused and brutalized by her husband, and that what rushed her to the hospital at which she died was a physical assault, the husband allegedly giving her boots at her chest. Rightly, these facts must be professionally confirmed beyond the claims of social media.
This notwithstanding, the sudden death of Sister Osinachi, if it is true, and the surrounding issues that shroud it, particularly about the possible causation of the death, leave all of us disturbed. So many questions keep lurking at the back of one’s mind as one thinks about this development. For us as Christians, some of these questions are: Was she a powerful woman of God as we supposed or at least see in her music ministrations? If yes could God not have saved her? Where is God in all of this? Is it the will of God that we stay in abusive marriages and suffer a painful death like hers? When is divorce permissible for a Christian? What lessons can be drawn from this episode?
Well, these, sincerely, are tough questions, and no man can justly answer all of them to a satisfactory end. Plainly, it must be pointed out that all answers lie with God before Whom everything is naked, and before Whom all humankind will stand to give account of their deeds someday, including all they did in secret – whether good or bad. This aside, who can justifiably and comprehensively deal with a case concerning the dead? They themselves know the full details. Unfortunately, they pass on with the fine details. Also, the fact that, as social media again tells us, the husband has been arrested, (and I even read a friend’s post wishing that the husband rots in jail), means the case is on its way to be categorized as a criminal matter, at least officially. In that case we all must be careful how we dance ourselves into the story.
However, the many questions this particular development poses, especially to young people on social media, demands that we speak to it. I will therefore try to give some attention to some of the questions I posed above, which I consider to be the most-heated ones, at least in the minds of many young people, even if not bespoken. It may be a somehow long read but I bet that it will be worthwhile if one is patient with me.
First, was Sister Osinachi Nwachukwu really a Christian and that powerful a woman of God as we see her portray in her music ministry? Well, I think after watching one, two, or three of her music videos everyone will answer this for themselves. Undoubtedly, this was a woman of God backed by Heaven. Once her mouth was opened behind the microphone, the power of Heaven engulfed the atmosphere leaving many arrested by the power of God. In her popular “The Cry You Will Cry” ministration video for instance, one sees how God takes over and rends the hearts of her immediate audience in the room. People are seen in that video sobbing, weeping, and showing other physical evidential signs of repentance. She herself is always wrapped in the lyrics of the song – she carries herself, supposedly, to the very Presence of God where she pours her heart out in deep worship. Unlike some artistes, it is clear Sister Osinachi does not come across as a fans pleaser but a deep worshipper who, one can sense, carefully ascribes all the glory to God.
In John 3:2, Nicodemus made a profound statement. He told Jesus: “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” This Scripture so fitly applies to Sister Osinachi. She could not carry such divine Presence, approval, and impact if God were not with her.
That settled, let me come to the second question: If she was a woman of God, and one that carried God’s power, why didn’t God save her from the alleged abuse and the eventual death? This is a tough one, and the ultimate answer rests with God alone. Scripture, however, helps us sail through some of the difficulties. Quite clearly, the Bible responds to issues of such nature.
Psalm 116:15 reads: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (NIV). As Scripture makes this emphatic statement about the death of the saints of God (the righteous), it has this to say about the death of sinners: “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live…’” (Ezek. 33:11, NIV). As the death of the righteous is precious before God, the death of the wicked brings Him no pleasure and He desires that they convert to righteousness before their demise. This statement of the death of the righteous being precious to the Lord notwithstanding, the Bible is flooded with so many scenarios where some righteous people have died in quite bizarre situations. Think of the death of Jesus for one – falsely accused by all, crucified naked on a cross at the outskirts of the town and condemned as a wicked man to the belief of so many people. Or let’s think of Stephen, James the apostle, and more. In fact, church history tells of many Christians who died of martyrdom. Hebrews 11:35b also says: “There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they may gain an even better resurrection” (NIV). My point is that the fact of the death of the righteous being precious to God does not warrant that the righteous will always die in an admirable manner. God’s emphasis is on the state of their souls rather than their mode of exit from this world.
In fact, the death of the righteous, no matter how it happens, is precious to God, and God may choose to call them in any way He pleases. So, point re-emphasized, it turns out to be that for the righteous, it is now how they exit this world that matters. God may choose to bring them home in whichever way that pleases His divine sovereign will. Sometimes out of all the troubles, shame, and struggles among others, the Lord may call His beloved home to rest with Him. How did men of God like John the Baptist die? He was beheaded by someone who felt uncomfortable by the message he preached! In giving contemporary examples, how did Dr. Myles Monroe die? In a plane crash! In Ghana we were not long ago so hardly hit with the death of the children of our revered Pastor Eastwood Anaba, one of Ghana’s great men of God. How did they die? In a car crash! So, the question is, couldn’t God have saved them? Well, He could. Why didn’t He save them then? Well, it is up to Him and His will. That’s the point! God’s will is what He wants to do out of many other options at a time, and just as humans have their will power, God has His too. Those who walk with God give space in life to the ultimate will of God. This is what every believer must do.
Perhaps the three Hebrew boys we read about in the Book of Daniel are our best fit for what I call “making room for the sovereign will of God”. To a death-threatening and an oppressive King of Babylon under whom Israel had been captured in servitude, these God-fearing young people answered: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Dan. 3:17-18, NIV). We learn two important things from these valiant young men. First, God is able to deliver us in trouble. That He is able means He has the power and ability to accomplish. But the second lesson we learn from them is that though God is able He also has a will, and that He chooses to do (deliver) if that is His will to deliver. These boys knew that though they were in trouble it was not automatic that God would deliver them since God’s will is sometimes different from the will of humans. This, they respected because they knew their God and His ways. They had walked with Him and understood Him.
For us humans, we always want immediate relief, but God looks at the ultimate picture, being the God who knows the end from the beginning and acts in the best interest. Well, it turned out that it was not the will of God for these gentlemen to be spared the seven-times-heated oven and so into it they were hurled! We may say God had failed them at the moment but wait for the end of the story. They get in there and the fire loses its ability to scorch and burn them down to ashes. They defy the power of the fire, it becomes the talk of town, many people come to revere the God of these boys, the king himself praises the God of Israel, and these three boys ended up being promoted as a compensation (read Daniel chapter 3). So, judge for yourself which was better, the will of God or the will of humans?
So, truly, the death of the righteous is precious to God no matter how it happens, and one of the reasons is that God has His own will in how these saints are called home to be with Him. In human understanding Myles Munroe may have died in a strange way, and Sister Osinachi may have died in a strange way, but the principle is the same. God has His will in the lives of His beloved saints. If it is His will He will deliver them from certain death, if not, He calls them home through whichever means. God has His own reasons for this. Sometimes the unexpected passing on of the saints brings in more harvest of souls to the Lord than what the rest of their lives would have fetched, and sometimes they are preserved from horrible developments to have unfolded later in their lives, sometimes too, they are called home because they have finished fulfilling their divine assignments, and still sometimes, they are called home so that something can be corrected with the sharp tone their departure strikes. Which of these may be behind Sister Osinachi’s sudden demise? I don’t know!
Altogether, my point is that Christians can have confidence in the assurance of the Bible that we may not grieve like those of the world who have no hope concerning the death of the righteous. That is, all we need to be sure of is that they were righteous, once we do, we must trust that God is a bigger stakeholder in their lives than us, and by His will, He may treat them as He pleases. One thing we know for sure, however, is that no matter the means God uses to call His saints home, it is ultimately for their good and the good of the Kingdom of God.
So, let me hit the nail on the question I posed: God could have saved her anointed lady, Sister Osinachi, from death but what if this was not something He God, knowing all things, did not want to do? And which of us can ask God about how He manages His will?
This brings us to the question about where is God in all of this? Where was God in the domestic abuse we hear Sister Osinachi wrestled with for a good part of her marital life, where was God in the struggle that led her to such painful death through the orchestration of her husband if what we have heard is true, and where is God in the sufferings of others who are going through various shades of oppression in the world? This, again, is a difficult question, and it comes under what is often referred to as the problem of evil. In simple understanding, the problem of evil is a philosophical and theological frame for the perception that evil abounds in the world and causes a lot of trouble to people and nature, yet God who has the power to intervene often sits unconcerned.
It is often held by atheists (people who do not believe in the existence Of God) that a God who does not intervene in the affairs of life does not exist, and deists are of the view that God created the world alright but has since lost interest in it and has allowed the world to run on its own course. These are faulty views according to orthodox Christian teaching. Unfortunately, even some Christians who get frustrated with the issues of life come to question the availability of God in their struggles. Under the perception of the problem of evil, God is either held accountable directly for evil, or He is thought of not coming in with appropriate (often expected to be immediate) sanctions against the perpetrators of evil and as so held indirectly responsible.
A good semblance of the problem of evil in the Bible is found in Judges 6:13. Allow me to cut this text into detail a bit just to draw from it to make the necessary application to the line of discussion. The whole narrative (chapter six) starts with the background of Israel having done evil in the sight of the Lord. Based on this, God, their Creator, Father, and divine leader had given them into the hands of the Midianites. Now, as to what exactly the Midianites were allowed to do to the Israelites and the extent, they could go with them we do not get to know. It is important to note that the fact that they had been given into the hands of Midian did not warrant that Midian could go every extent with them. There are cases in the Bible where God gave people into the hands of others and due to the ferociousness and the gravity of their oppression God came in to punish the oppressors. For instance, God punished Egypt for bitterly oppressing the people of Israel who had become slaves under them. Similarly, when Edom took pleasure and advantage over the brutality with which the Babylonians dealt with the people of Judah when taking them into Babylonian servitude, the Lord later gave them their due punishment (see the book of Obadiah). [For more direct scriptures on God’s attitude towards oppression read Jer. 7:10; Prov. 22:22-23; Isa. 33:14-15, etc.].
So, back to the Midian story, God may have been punishing Israel alright, but the Midianites had overstretched that into oppression and abuse. God’s punishment and human oppression and abuse are not the same. God hates, condemns, and punishes evil and may punish His people when they sin. Yet God’s punishment for His people (Israel in this sense, but in our present case Christian believers) is out of love, and as such is corrective and restorative at the end. Thus, it can better be understood with the word discipline since it has restoration and wellbeing as its telos (the expected end). Not so with human-imposed oppression and abuse which aims to deprive and destroy.
It seems to be, however, that the Midianites took a full advantage of God’s punishment of the Israelites and oppressed them brutally. Israel left the comfort of their homes and went to live in caves and mountains and only came down daily to till their land when they were sure the enemies were not coming. The force of oppression increased when other Eastern people joined the attack. As verse 4 and 5 of Judges 6 reveal, “whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites, and other eastern peoples invaded the country. They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it.” Though it is not completely stated as to whether this was a strategy or not, this approach taken by the enemies would have led to the expiration of the main food and other support systems for Israel, and it would have taken their lives. The development obviously led to Israel’s desperation, and we read that they cried out to the LORD for help. In addition to this cry for help, however, they complained and faulted God for all the evil that had befallen them. Later in verse 13 Gideon spills it out to the angel of God who had come down to speak with him, and who had just told him that the Lord was with him. This is how the King James Version of the Bible puts it: “And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.”
Verse 13 provides the vital link between this narrative and the problem of evil which is the bigger discussion at hand at this point of my write-up. To distill the points, Israel was in great desperation, what qualifies much into our understanding of evil in the frame of the problem of evil. It was an intense suffering from oppression from a ruthless nation who would destroy everything that could support life. Our observation is that Gideon expressed the view that God cannot really be with them when they were suffering such evil and not intervene. To him when God is with a person there cannot be trouble. He therefore could not reconcile the angel’s message that God was with them and yet they were going though such trouble when God had the power to deal with the situation. It made sense to assume they were going through such struggle because God was absent, but the angel corrected him that God was still with them in the struggle. The contention then was that if God was present why was He not helping in their situation? Was God holding back His power or He was not able? Gideon questioned the miracle working power of God – God’s ability to accomplish in the now and then. He thought that if God could work miracles, they needed one. In contemporary phraseology, they did not care about a God who is known to have performed great miracles in the past but would not perform one now for them when they thought they needed it most. He also thought God had forsaken them, delivered them into the hands of the Midianites to be treated such harshly. He assumed here that everything the Midianites did against them was God-sanctioned and that God was responsible for everything the Midianites did against them.
My question is: Was Gideon right? No. Obviously not. As I would not want to sink too deep in further analyzing this text, suffice it that God cannot be blamed anymore for every evil that happens to the people He may be disciplining than the evil that happens to His own people that He favours. That is to say that God cannot be blamed for all evil in people’s lives. Even when God may be dealing with people, other humans may overstretch their pains, yet God is often blamed with that. So let me repeat the point: God cannot be blamed for every bad thing that happens in people’s lives, and He cannot be dragged to respond with His power as if He is under the control of man. Even prayer must be in the will of God for Him to respond!
Bringing this to the context of marriage, God cannot be blamed for oppressions in marriage no matter where those oppressions occur, even if they happen in the marriages of men and women of God. Oppression is evil and so is abuse, period, and God is against them. The alleged oppression that has led to the passing on of Sister Osinachi is evil and meets the condemnation and anger of God. As a matter of fact, God favours the criminal charges that will be (or are being) pressed against the husband since it is upon His word that the judicial system is built. That is, to the question, where is God in all these, I say God is present in this case as the just God who is against oppression and abuse in marriage, and Who, while being the Judge of all flesh and will bring every detail of this issue into account on the Day of Judgment, is for the justice that must prevail in this case now. Similarly, God is for justice in all cases of oppressions. The oppressed must therefore seek justice by every means possible in line with the will of God.
Most obviously, this write-up cannot end without giving due attention to the issue of how long we should suffer abuse in marriage before we give up, and when divorce is allowed in Scripture. Many young people are asking this question on social media, and it needs to be addressed too. These are tough issues, admittedly so, but we will press on. From His original design God is against divorce, and the truth is no matter how we negotiate the issue of divorce God’s original stand is that He hates it! This is because divorce destroys people. The fact is that marriage makes two people one indeed and if they really married in the first place, separating should leave none of them ‘normal’. People who have divorced may remarry but they themselves may testify that it may never be the same. It is much like two pieces of paper glued together and dried. We shouldn’t succeed in separating them perfectly again. In marriage, through a divine act, God, not man, joins two humans to become one, and about how they can be separated, truth be told, God seems not to leave much room except for the case of death and adultery, and he adds: “Therefore what God has put together let no man separate.” Wait, I will deal with these with much Scripture soon.
In Matthew 19:1-12 the clever Pharisees bring a very complicated question on marriage before Jesus, much like what is before us in this case. For the sensitivity of this issue allow me to quote the text copiously:
When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan.Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate. “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
In answering these Pharisees Jesus points to God’s original and perfect arrangement for marriage recorded in Genesis 1:22-27 and 2:24: God made them two different parts of one – male and female meant to fit and lock into each other into one whole, and, the man leaves his father and mother and is united with his wife, and they become one, fitting into one another, interlocking each other, and ceasing to be two from there and then. Jesus further added that because of this mystery they are no longer two but have become one flesh! They have become one – God has joined them to become one. Then He continued to warn that humankind should be careful not to separate what God Himself has put together.
The Pharisees, maybe not satisfied with the answer, as indeed many in this generation are not, and have kept on wanting to replace the word of God with their human thinking and common sense, went on to probe about the space for divorce that Moses gave in Deuteronomy 24:1-5. Jesus’ reply was that it was due to the stubbornness of their hearts that Moses, not being able to cope any longer, allowed them. This is just like how many pastors in this generation, not being able to cope with the pressure people’s marriages are bringing on them, are granting many permissions outside the original will of God concerning marriage. Jesus corrected that mistake and reverted it to the original will of God – how God designed it and wills it to be. Then after that He came stronger, finalizing the issue: “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9). The question is, why should someone who has dissolved his marriage and married another person be accused of adultery? The answer is: Because before God he is still a married man with the woman, he thinks he has successfully divorced, and so having this new woman makes him guilty of adultery, a sin defined as unfaithfulness in marriage. So, do you get it? As far as God is concerned, once you are married you cannot truly divorce, unless your partner continues in a life of adultery or is taken by death. In the verse that follows, when the disciples got to understand this truth of the word of God, they said that “if this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” To this Jesus said a surprising yes and added that this is a plain truth that not everyone can live with. That is to say that many will marry, only a few will remain singles for various reasons.
This is the hard truth. It is the will of the All-wise and All-knowing God and no body must dare to twist it. Marriage is not for joke and that is why in the solemnization process we are advised that it must be entered into in all solemnity and forethought. It must be entered into in all maturity. Again and again, the word of God warns us about being careful before we settle into marriage with anyone. It calls for prayer, careful study, counsel, and discernment, and to nail it to the point, being sexually involved with each other before marriage clouds the process and blinds your eye such that you cannot see and discern any well about the person any longer. This truth must be told this generation. It is for our won good that we are to stay chaste and enter marriage the right way! Marriage is such a long journey that if you don’t start it right you will have trouble.
In biblical counsel, we must not marry those who do not know God (God always warned Israel against marrying from the heathens), Song of Songs 8:4 advises against awakening love before its time, and 2 Corinthians 6:14-16a warns: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.” Let me end that flow here and go to my main point at this juncture.
Jesus, from the Matthew 19 account, makes it clear that the way out of marriage is so limited – and that is adultery (and death) -, and that there is a divine warning against anyone who dares separates marriages but for this allowable cause. Because of this divine imperative, the truth is no pastor may want to spearhead divorce. Sometimes both church leaders and traditional leaders handle marital cases that, judging from human view, may have to end up in divorce, but at that point they leave it hanging because there is more to marriage than meets the eye. This makes taking decisions on divorce a personal decision to be made by those involved at some point, truth be told, and at that point what can significant others do apart from offering prayer support, counselling, and pieces of advice? Clearly this is where everybody’s work ends apart from the married couple. The problem is that some pastors go beyond this point to urge people to continue to endure whilst others advocate for divorce. As far as I am informed, pastors must be careful when crossing this barrier as there are always dire consequences. My view is that as soon as you do that you out-step your boundary and enter a danger zone covered neither by your calling nor profession. This applies to counsellors as well. I have seen that the options people normally take here include filing for divorce, choosing to ‘carry their cross’ and follow Christ – which means they accept this to be a challenge of life and rather choose to serve God well and please Him with the rest of their lives. Others continue to seek help, giving change a chance. Well, because with God all things are possible, sometimes things change in line with the will of God. In other times there is no change and conditions worsen. As I said earlier, only God has the full answers. So many options but this is very complicated. All these culminate into my initial premise that the issues surrounding the sudden death of our beloved Sister Osinachi is confusing and unpleasant.
Before I conclude, however, let me also add that those who enter marriage must understand and accept that they have become one with their spouses. In that sense whatever each has, and the unique talents, gifts, abilities, and recourses we come to have must continually be at the disposal of each other in a proper Christian marriage. We must therefore support each other to shine as couples. Sometimes, the shouting gift may be with the woman, there must be no problem with that. The man must come on board to support. The Bible said he who loves his wife loves himself. This means you are your wife so why the difference? In the Western world men supporting women in leadership is not a challenge at all. I think we can do better in Africa, and the church must lead the way. In the context of marriage, it may not matter who among us the Lord may lift to spearhead a ministry or an enterprise. There must be enough love, fear of God, and humility for the other partner to come on board and support. At the same time, those entrusted with the key position of the ministry or enterprise must be God-fearing, humble, and Christian enough to submit. Together, in marriage we become one, and all God does for us and gives us must be celebrated together and supported by each other.
Truly, the issues around the death of beloved Sister Osinachi are confusing and worrisome, but at least as mortals we can learn from them. There is a lot to learn from, and I only hope that this write-up settles some of the dust, at least for our young people, about such matters. I also hope that all of us – clergy, married people, unmarried people, oppressors, abusers, the oppressed and abused, parents, gospel artistes and other Christian ministers, and all society will learn our due from it. May the Lord save us from such distasteful development. May they be far from us!
Written by Pastor Ebenezer Hagan (Youth Ministry Director, The Church of Pentecost)