Reflections based on Acts 16:16–38.
‘After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailor was commanded to guard them carefully… About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.’
One of the Christian women I admire most is my mum. She suffers from lupus and also has rheumatoid arthritis. She finds it hard to breathe and is in constant pain. But nothing makes her faith waver – it may dwindle to a tiny flicker at times but it is always there. I find that incredible. So I don’t write about this subject lightly.
Imagine how much Paul and Silas must have been suffering, and yet they choose to praise God despite their circumstances. The result: their chains were loosed; they showed integrity to the jailer by not running away and led his whole family to the Lord. I’m not saying there will always be such a positive outcome to your pain – just that there could be. My mum has been to hospital countless times, and is usually desperate not to go in. Yet often she testifies to some ‘God-incidence’ where she was able to share with someone who was dying or suffering badly. Each time she is able to say that if she was admitted simply to speak to that person the pain was worth it. Wow. I wish I could lift my head above my circumstances more often. That is what I think the crux of the matter is. It’s a choice we make – to look at our circumstances and the physical reality and allow ourselves to slide downwards, or to acknowledge the suffering, but also choose to remember God’s sovereignty doesn’t change in the light of it.
God knows how you are feeling so be honest – but don’t stay there. The Psalms are made up of 70% laments; take a look at some. Note how, even in the depths of despair, the writers lift their eyes heavenward, speaking out truths of His greatness. For your own sake, ask God to help you learn to do the same.
Prayer: Use what Habakkuk said, even in the light of impending starvation and devastation, as a starting point for your own prayer: ‘yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my saviour’. (Habakkuk 3:18)