"And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them." Acts 16:25
I had heard the account of Paul and Silas many a time in Sunday-School, as a young child. In my childish mind, I equated the desire to sing with their conditions probably not being all that bad. I might have hummed merrily along with the teacher as I colored the lesson page, being careful to stay in the lines, and making the robes they wore colorful and bright. I probably even added a happy little mouse or two, just like the story in my mind.
As I grew in years, I read the Bible on my own, maturity caused me to think on the miserable conditions they must have been in, and I then knew that being laid with stripes meant beatings. I don't even want to venture a guess at what my childish mind thought being “laid with stripes” meant. Though maturing, physically and spiritually, I still didn't think too much on the significance of Paul and Silas’ choice to sing praises to God so loudly that the prisoners heard. It was a choice to respond to their conditions with prayer and song, one that impacted those around them.
This past summer, an unforeseen and unavoidable circumstance placed us in a situation to make a choice about how we would respond to our trial, considering our precious “cloud of witnesses”, our children:
After a long summer of making a military move and thereby traveling with our four children from Virginia to California, my husband and I had finally been told we would receive keys to the house we were in the process of purchasing. We merrily moved out of the tiny one bedroom, office, and one bathroom cute little furnished Casita that the six of us had squeezed into for the summer. I scrubbed and cleaned and excitedly packed our van and SUV to near overflow. As we handed the landlord our keys, Brian received a surprising call. I breathlessly waited until he hung up, and he then told me that there were some issues that still were not worked out at escrow. It was Friday and we would not be getting keys, and no one could seem to give a straight answer as to when or if we would move into this house that we had so bathed in prayer. Looking back, we are still quite confused, but not as to God’s plan. We had invested quite a bit into this house, and having our money tied up left us in an extremely tight financial position.
After a tearful goodbye, Brian had to leave for work. The kids and I sat in the "packed to ridiculousness" van, literally homeless. Money was too tight to stay in a hotel, and as they came, I quickly hid hot tears behind my sunglasses. I pulled out of the driveway pleading silently with the Lord to show us what to do. The kids were silent and my heart hurt as I saw their worried looks in the rear-view mirror. I wouldn't say that peace instantaneously filled my heart, at this time. No, truth be told, I really felt like pounding my head on the steering wheel just for distraction, but I was able to have a moment of clarity to see the importance of how I would choose to respond, for the children's sake, at least. I could testify to God's supreme ability to meet our needs or I could fail them by giving into the real tantrum I wanted to throw because things didn't go according to my carefully laid plan.
The old story of Paul and Silas came to my mind. I thought of how they sat in their bonds waiting on the Lord to see them through. They made a purposed choice to pray and sing praises to the Lord, and the Bible makes a point to say that their praises reached the prisoners ears. The children couldn't see my tears of fear and disappointment, but they could hear me as I prayed out loud for the Lord's help and they joined me in song as we drove to a park where we would spend our day: "He's able, He's able, I know He's able, I know my Lord is able to carry me through!". Though my tears still flowed, a new confidence in the words took hold of my heart as we sang. I also found that I couldn't worry and sing at the same time, praise God!
Carry us through He did, in a marvelous way, but that's another story, for another time! We can’t choose our trials, but we can choose how we will respond to them. Blessings, my friends!