American Pastor Saeed Abedini, a Muslim convert to Christianity, was arrested in September 2012 in Iran because of his religious beliefs. (Photo courtesy of ACLJ)

When my husband, pastor Saeed Abedini — a U.S. citizen — was put in the notorious Evin Prison in Iran on Sept. 26, 2012, because of his Christian faith, I could have never anticipated that the journey would take so long or that it would be so painful.

I had so much hope that we could get Saeed released and back on American soil quickly. Now, as we begin his fourth year of imprisonment, it is increasingly difficult and discouraging when I think about my husband’s fate.

During the past three years, there was much hope that Saeed would be freed soon. I continue to struggle to explain to my children why their father never returned from what was supposed to be a short trip to Iran to help Iranian children with the construction of a new orphanage.

When Iran elected a more “moderate” president (Hassan Rouhani) in 2013 and when President Obama spoke for the first time with President Rouhani in September 2013, I was sure that it meant that my husband’s freedom was near. Sadly, that did not happen.

When our government had direct dialogue with Iran, and we learned that the American hostages were being discussed on the “sidelines” of the nuclear talks, there was much hope that this meant that the freedom of my husband and other Americans was near. This turned into yet another disappointment.

After my two children and I met with President Obama in January 2015 and the president promised my son, Jacob, that he would do all that he could to bring Saeed home for my son’s seventh birthday (in March 2015), we were very hopeful that Saeed’s release was at hand. We faced more heartbreak.

Finally, when the United States agreed to a nuclear deal with Iran in the summer, there was much hope and anticipation that Iran would do the right thing and release my husband and the other Americans it was holding hostage. The reality: The deal did not produce freedom for our loved ones.

My heart goes out to the families of the other Americans who are being held hostage in Iran.

I had the privilege of meeting the families of the other Americans when we testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in June 2015. The faces of each family member and each tear that they shed as they described their nightmare are forever imprinted in my heart.

I think about Bob Levinson’s family and them not knowing what has happened to their beloved father and husband since 2007.

I think about Amir Hekmati and the pain and his anguish his parents and siblings continue to go through and have gone through these past four years.

I am heartbroken and frustrated about the continued injustice and false accusations facing Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post journalist who has been in prison for more than a year.

[Obama’s baffling passivity on Jason Rezaian]

I pray for strength for those Americans and their families. And I pray for hope. Because without hope, it is impossible to continue. No matter how difficult, we hold on to the hope of seeing our loved ones again.  

Since the nuclear deal in the summer, it is not only more difficult to maintain hope, but the reality of my husband’s situation has grown worse. He remains in grave danger and in need of medical treatment.

Even as President Rouhani was preparing to address the United Nations in New York last month, Saeed was being beaten and interrogated by Iranian guards in prison. During that encounter, guards interrogated Saeed and used a stun gun on him. Although there was no detailed information provided, Saeed was told he would face additional new charges, possibly extending his eight-year prison sentence.

The continued imprisonment of Saeed has taken a very emotional and tragic toll on our family. My kids have had to grow up without a father. Saeed has missed so many birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions.

And being separated from his family is taking a toll on Saeed as well. In a recent letter delivered to family members during a prison visit, Saeed wrote that he had traveled to Iran in order to help the orphans — never anticipating that this trip would leave his own children without a father.

I was always afraid that the trials of life would make me question God and his goodness. But the truth is that through this intense trial and the excruciating pain that I wake up to each morning, I have truly discovered the goodness of God.

It is my hope and faith in Jesus Christ that has carried me through these most difficult times, and as Paul writes in the Bible, I have discovered the strength of Christ in my weakness.

In the last few days, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei signed off on the nuclear deal with the United States. However, he still refers to America as the “Great Satan.” And now that the nuclear agreement is a done deal, he says the United States cannot be trusted.

The truth is Iran cannot be trusted. Thankfully, I do not put my trust in governments or the rulers of nations. Instead, I put my trust in God and pray that he changes the hearts of those who unjustly imprison my husband and the other Americans.

And though I pray, Iran must know that until my husband and the other Americans are safely back on American soil, I will not rest and I will not be silent.

Naghmeh Abedini and her two children — Rebekka and Jacob — reside in Boise, Idaho.

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