Wednesday, August 4, 2010

When things seem their darkest

I love the incident included in this week's Bible lesson about a midnight experience. It happened to Paul and Silas and is found in Acts 16. They had healed a woman who brought her masters much money by being a medium or clairvoyant. She believed herself possessed of a spirit until they healed her. Her masters were furious and had the men brought before the magistrate. Accused of causing trouble, they were beaten and then thrown into prision. Their jailer was told to make sure they did not escape so he put them in the midst of the prison and chained them in stocks.

Think how they might have felt, beaten unfairly, accused falsely, all for healing someone. They could have been resentful or planned vengence, but that is not what they did. At the darkest moment, midnight, when they might have felt farthest from home and friends, they did not complain or wail. They prayed, most likely aloud, and those must have been prayers of trust and faith in God's protection and care. They must have known they had done the right thing and were innocent in His eyes. In fact, they sang praises to Him, probably what we would think of as hymns. The Bible account says that the prisoners heard them. Think what an effect that must have had on those who listened to those prayers and hymns. What hope and encouragement to know God was a very present help in trouble.

What happens next is wonderous. There was an earthquake and the foundations of the prison were shaken. All the doors opened, Everyone's bands were loosed. When you think about this spiritually, it is so helpful for our own challenges. What was so dramatically shaken and altered must have been how the prisoners were feeling about God, about themselves, maybe even those they were resenting. The very foundations of their beliefs were shaken and they let go and opened their hearts. All doors opened. Do you need a door opened in your life? Does some avenue seemed closed or blocked? Are you holding stubbornly to some resentment or incident? Those 'doors' can be opened. God can do that. And when that happens all bands are loosed. Not only Paul and Silas were freed, but everyone around them benefited.

So when you find yourself in a dark place, when you are at your wits end, when there doesn't appear to be a solution, change your approach. Turn to God and tell Him that you know He is there and that He loves you. He did not bring any of this on you. His plan is for blessing and good. Think back to some favorite hymn and sing it to yourself, thinking about the words. Don't be surprised at what happens next. Expect your bands to be loosed.

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