Notes from Prison

4. Dreams and Visions

4. Dreams and Visions

This is the fourth in a series of articles by Mojtaba Hosseini, an Iranian convert to Christianity who spent more than three years in prison in the southern city of Shiraz because of his membership of a house-church. Mojtaba’s first note from prison explained his journey to faith and the first of his two subsequent arrests; his second detailed his long interrogation; his third explained the desperation and loneliness of solitary confinement. In this fourth note, Mojtaba describes some of the dreams and visions he had in prison.

Oh, how sweet it felt to be home! It was lunchtime, I was sitting next to my father, and my mother had brought out some delicious home-cooked food. My sisters were rejoicing that I was safely back home and in good health. Overflowing with a sense of peace and security, in the warm, comforting atmosphere of home, I thanked God a thousand times that the nightmare of solitary confinement was over. It felt like no-one could steal this peace from me.

It was in this blissful state that I was suddenly aroused from slumber by the loud noise of the hatch to my cell door being opened. The prison guard barked out his orders in his usual demeaning tone: “Hurry up and take your breakfast!”

My heart was pounding, and I was in a daze. I couldn’t believe I was still in prison. That sweet dream had felt so real, so profound, as though I had been out of jail for many years. Suddenly being brought back to a very different reality was a stark contrast which was hard to digest.

Such dreams came to me from time to time. In one sense they were sweet, but they were also like torture, because every time I opened my eyes to rediscover that I remained in the confines of my cell, I was reminded that I was still living a nightmare which was very real.


As the days went by, my frustration and loneliness intensified. At the same time, every time I returned from the intense interrogations, I became more and more restless and found it harder and harder to cope.

As I paced around my tiny cell, all day long, from morning till night, I fretted about my next interrogation: whether I would be able to bear it, and what answers I would give to their incessant questions. 

To escape these thoughts, I continuously prayed and worshipped, feeling that if I stopped to consider my situation for even a moment, my anxiety and frustration would overwhelm me. Some days, I kept on walking from morning till night, despite the pain in my legs.

My negative thoughts also affected me in another way: they made me feel unworthy, like a failure, because in the sheer loneliness that I felt, missing my loved ones, I always remembered the times we had shared together, but what kept coming to mind were the times I had failed them. The mistakes I had made, and my deep regret for behaving in a certain way towards them, were constantly on mind. So were the mistakes I had made in my relationship with God; I was defining myself by my failures.

Sometimes it felt like God must have rejected me because of my failures, and once, unconsciously, I remember praying from the bottom of my heart: “Father, Father, why have you forsaken me?”

But there were also times when, through worship and prayer, I was able to kneel in the presence of God and remember again his great grace and forgiveness, made available to me in Christ, and the great changes that he had accomplished within me and also my family. During those moments, I would hear his kind, comforting voice, telling me: “You are my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”

In this battle, I experienced more and more of the presence of Jesus with me, the perfecter of my faith, knowing that he had gone through every one of these struggles and emerged victorious. I found strength and courage, by the Holy Spirit, and knew that whether I was failing or succeeding, standing strong or crumpled in a heap, I was his child and that my identity was in him.

A vision

One day, I felt such an overwhelming sense of hopelessness that I felt I couldn’t endure going to yet another interrogation; I so desperately wanted my nightmare to end. I was crying out in prayer and expressing my feelings to God, when suddenly I saw a vision – but more than just an image, I had a feeling, or a deep inner understanding, which I will try my best to describe: 

I saw a group of people, and seeing them gave me nothing but joy and peace. Their affection for each other was so pure that they seemed even closer than brothers and sisters, and there was no tension or disharmony between them. It seemed like it was impossible for any of them to cause another pain, and it was clear that all their hope and joy was found in being with one another. They were so warm and close with each other, and shared such joy and laughter.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put into words how powerful that vision was for me, but it was like tasting a piece of heaven. And in the midst of them, right in the centre, I saw Christ standing, and everyone gathered around him. They seemed to be celebrating a great victory, and I had a sense that the people I was looking at were extremely strong, and that there were none stronger.

And then, right at that moment, Christ spoke to me from the crowd, and said: “You belong to us, and we are with you.” At that moment, unconsciously, a smile appeared on my face, and my mood was utterly transformed and I was able to rejoice in the living and sweet truth of God.

This vision, which was more powerful than any nightmare, brought me refreshment and a new measure of courage. I remember being interrogated that same day, and at the interrogation table the sweetness of that moment remained with me, and the smile was still on my face.

Through this vision, God showed me what my real identity was, and where and to whom I belonged – to the divine family, whose centre is Christ – and that belonging to him brings with it the very fullness of honour and joy.