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.
I've been following a blog lately called Teaching Tuck and Ty. I do not know this incredible woman personally, but I have become so invested in her journey over the past few months as she has openly and honestly shared about the sudden and tragic loss of her husband. I love reading her posts, but I almost love reading the comments on her posts even more. She is dwelling in a place of deep suffering right now, but she's dwelling there as a free and saved woman. And the way that she is praising God in the midst of her darkest hour is winning souls. I couldn't help but think of her as I read this week's study on Paul and Silas.
I have been blessed lately with a season of joy and happiness and good living. Things are going well with my family, and we are enjoying the abundant joy of having each other. I'm thankful for this, but I know that this is only a season. Life has it's ups and it's downs, and I will one day find myself in a darker place, I know. I hope and pray that God would continue to teach me through the faith stories of others, in His Word as well as in the world around me. I hope and pray that I will have the strength to sing His praises in my darkest hours, and to suffer victoriously as His freed child.
I pray that I would have the strength to embrace the dark places, knowing full well that there are souls to be won those prisons.