We read about Paul and Silas being stripped, beaten, and imprisoned. About how they spent that night in prison praising God and singing hymns while the other prisoners listened on. And about how God caused an earthquake that freed them from their shackles and broke open the prison doors. What happened next has always struck me as so peculiar:
"And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, 'Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.' Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?'"
I've heard this story before, and always wondered why in the world Paul and the other prisoners didn't flee at the first opportunity. I've tried imagining myself in that position, and I've got to admit that I would probably view the earthquake as God's "go ahead" on the whole fleeing option. I'm not sure what convinced them to stay in the dark depths of that prison rather than seizing the opportunity to flee, but I'm glad they did. They remained in their prison, in their place of suffering, and they won a soul. They were free of their shackles, but by dwelling in the place of their darkest hour, they freed the guard from his.