About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the rest of the prisoners were listening to them.
Acts 16:25 NET
Have you ever been to prison?
Not as a convict, though. I landed there as a college student involved in ministry. An experience forever planted in my head and heart. In Acts 16:25, we learn that Paul and Silas landed in prison (after being beaten) at the hands of the magistrates in a city called Phillipi.
Many of us know this story from Sunday School: As Paul and Silas worshiped, God freed them from prison via a mighty earthquake. It’s a fabulous plot line, isn’t it?
Yet as I was reading this story the other day, some pre-earthquake words jumped out, “the rest of the prisoners were listening to them”. Paul and Silas had an audience. Here they were- persecuted, beaten, imprisoned and singing? Wow.
I met beautiful souls during my summer in prison. Women trapped in bars, with the constant stench of cow manure permeating the hot wind. No earthquake set them free. Women singing and worshipping God while others watched and listened.
Have you experienced a prison of your own making? A prison made by another? We all experience suffering and times we’ve felt as if we were in jail or serving a long, severe sentence.
Paul and Silas could have played the victim card. Instead of worship, they could have whined over their circumstances. Instead, they chose to sing.
Never do I intend to downplay your pain or minimize your circumstance or trial. I know how painful life can be. Believe me sister! (or brother). But I believe this is key: Others are listening and watching us in our trials. Yes! Let’s be authentic with safe people. However, when others peer inside our prison bars, might they see us worshipping? Do they hear us singing? OR do we play the victim card? Do they hear us complaining?
These questions have burned in me all summer long as I have lived in a prison of emotional, financial and physical pain. As I “do my time”, I have people watching me: Four precious sons, their friends, my friends. There are neighbors, church acquaintances and many who do not know Jesus. I’m transparent with my people, however, I’m reminded that my trial is a huge opportunity to shine for my King. As a daily reminder of this, my phone’s screen saver says, “LORD, LET THEM SEE YOU IN ME.”
May others see Him as I serve out my sentence: in my broken places, in my tears and heartache, in my songs of worship.
Who is watching? Who is listening to you? Who are you influencing while you serve out your sentence? Your kids? Unbelieving spouse? Hostile coworkers? Hurting friends?
Difficulties are among God’s favorite display windows, providing a showcase for Christ and His character to everyone. ~Margaret Feinberg
The world is hurting and knows not where to turn. When we hurt, we know where to turn: Jesus- our strength, endurance, hope, and help.
Whatever kind of sentence you are serving, or jail cell you dwell in, join me in singing to God as people watch us, just as Paul and Silas did.
- Hebrews 12:1-2
- Romans 12:12
- Isaiah 61:1
- Psalm 104:33
- Psalm 142:7