As a teenager, Kayla Mueller was very involved in human rights activism and humanitarian aid. Her love for others took her to work in India with Tibetan refugees, to the Middle East to help Palestinians and to Israel to help refugees from Africa, besides assisting aid projects at home in Arizona, USA to meet the food, education and medical needs of the less fortunate.
Then in 2012, at 23, Kayla started working in southern Turkey helping Syrian refugees. On August 3, 2013, she travelled to the northern Syrian city of Aleppo together with a Syrian resident, a contractor hired to install some communications equipment at the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo.
The hospital staff, however, were shocked at Kayla's arrival and fearful for her safety. They tried to get her to the bus station to get back to Turkey but the car she was travelling in was ambushed and Kayla was kidnapped by ISIS.
Thus began an ordeal of 18 months in which she was repeatedly tortured and raped, and then finally killed in 2015.
Other captives held with Kayla, who were later released or escaped, reported that she was full of strength and compassion, always concerned for the safety of others.
On one occasion, she refused to join a group of women attempting to escape because she knew her presence, being American, would jeopardise their safety. The group made it to freedom.
How could such a young woman be so strong and selfless in the midst of such suffering? Kayla had a strong Christian faith, refusing to deny it even when converting to Islam would have made her life much easier.
At college she was active in Christian campus ministry and 'devout' in her beliefs, according to those who knew her best.
In a letter written during her captivity she wrote: I remember mom always telling me that all-in-all in the end the only one you really have is God. I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our Creator.
In the public statements issued after her death, her family quoted from other letters she had written:
I find God in the suffering eyes reflected in mine. If this is how You are revealed to me, this is how I will forever seek You.
I will always seek God. Some people find God in church. Some people find God in nature. Some people find God in love; I find God in suffering. I've known for some time what my life's work is, using my hands as tools to relieve suffering.
Kayla discovered the truth that God inhabits suffering. She encountered God there and did not shrink from the danger of joining God there.
In February 2015, Charlotte Alter of TIME described Kayla Mueller as an ideal role model for Millennials, citing her selfless desire to end suffering, her activism, and her humanitarian aid work, and praising her desire not to be seen, but to genuinely help people.
Suffering is all around us, often residing quietly but powerfully within people we encounter every day. Rather than asking why we or others endure hardship, perhaps we should be asking what God wants us to do about it and how He is revealing Himself to us through the pain.
As He did for Kayla, God offers each of us the compassionate, indestructible love of Christ and His superhuman ability to shine and grow in the midst of suffering, if we will just rely on Him.•