Acts 16: 22-34
The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.
Psalm 138: 1-3, 7-8
I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;
for you have exalted your name and your word
On the day I called, you answered me,
you increased my strength of soul.
Your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.
John 16: 5-11
But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.
Think of a time God protected or delivered you from a bad situation. Maybe it was a car accident you narrowly escaped, or walked away from unharmed. Maybe it was a rejection from one opportunity that made room for something better. Maybe it was a hardship that gave others a chance to show you God’s love or for you to grow in your relationship with the Lord. When you look back on these experiences, do you dwell on the trauma of the experience or God’s hand that brought good out of it? Looking forward, do you wonder why God allowed these things to happen to you or do you have stronger faith because you’ve seen how He has never abandoned you?
Consider Paul and Silas’ situation in the first reading today. Just a couple chapters back, Paul had been dragged out of the city, stoned, and left for dead. Now he and Silas have been beaten and imprisoned again, even shackled to the floor. Yet their attitude is one of prayer and praise; they are persevering and singing hymns that recall God’s goodness. And the Lord responded by delivering them from prison and bringing salvation to the jailer and his family, something that might not have happened had Paul and Silas not been where they were. A story that began looking bleak for the disciples ended with rejoicing, as salvation came to an entire household.
Now imagine yourself in Paul and Silas’ place. Would you be spending the night in praise or would you be wondering if God had abandoned you, or if you had done something wrong to get yourself into this position? Was it any easier for Paul and Silas to forget what they had been through before and focus on the good that God had done? Whether it was or not, we know that’s what they chose. They believed as the Psalmist did that God was with them, He heard them when they cried out, and that because they were in His will for them He was going to complete the good work He had begun in them. With that faith, they had confidence in place of fear and grief and could offer God everything they had, even when they were in prison.
If you are struggling to understand God’s will for your life, ask yourself today: what do you really believe about God? Do you believe that God’s will is perfect and trustworthy, even though you are grieving, as the apostles were in the Gospel? Do you believe that the Lord really hears you and answers you when you pray? Remember that you have been given the Holy Spirit to help you, to remind you of who the Lord is and to convict you of how you can grow in faith. Call on the Advocate today, trust that the Lord is continually at work to draw you closer to Him, and choose to believe that He is with you always.