And the angel said unto them, "Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings
of great joy, which shall be to all people."
It is the easiest thing in the world to be thankful when things are going favourably. No one has to prompt you, it just seems to burst forth without much effort. But, what about being thankful in the midst of adversity, when all you want to do is grumble and complain?
When I awoke a few mornings ago, I was not in the mood to be thankful. Interestingly, however, I felt God directing me that day to not just be thankful but to give Him praise. To be honest, all I could see with my natural eyes were things that incited fear and discouragement. Yet, through more than one source, I felt that God was clearly telling me to be thankful and to give Him praise.
As I recall my experience, I remember the story of Paul and Silas in Acts chapter sixteen. As they went about their business, they were followed by a slave girl. She kept crying out: “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation” (v.17). When Paul could take it no more he cast the evil spirit out of her and she was delivered. Her masters became angry because she was a fortune-teller and brought profit to them. They subsequently had Paul and Silas beaten and thrown into prison. When given the command to secure them, the jailer put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks (vv. 16-24).
According to research, the inner prison was a room, possibly below ground, with an unbearable stench, damp, and without ventilation or light. To add to their discomfort, Paul’s and Silas’ feet were fastened in stocks. This made movement uncomfortable. As if that were not enough, their bodies must have been sore from their beating so that even if all they could do was lie back, the pain of that would have been unbearable.
Sometimes our situation can feel exactly like that inner prison. It’s uncomfortable, unbearable and we may feel as if we will never be able to escape. We have been praying, we have been trusting God but nothing seems to be happening. Like Paul and Silas, we feel beaten and the pain is so poignant that no matter what we do, discouragement seems to be sucking the life out of us. Yet, in the midst of that, God may be saying to be thankful, to give Him a sacrifice of praise. It’s a sacrifice because nothing about our situation is motivating thanksgiving.
The Bible says that at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God (v. 25). They must have been loud because the other prisoners heard them! In spite of their painful, challenging conditions, you would think that they would be moaning and groaning in their pain and discomfort. But they were not! They chose to give God thanks and praise instead! They were in the worst of conditions but singing and praying with gusto to their Lord. Why? They made a choice. It was not any easy one, quite painful and uncomfortable actually. Their choice had nothing to do with their feelings. They chose to look beyond how they felt and where they were and focus instead on their God. When they did that miraculous things happened (v.26).
God is still good and still able to deliver. We could be in the darkest, deepest prison and God is able to reach us even there (see Psalm 139:7-8). We may not always be able to feel His presence when we are going through but He is there. Believe it or not, He is the One giving us the strength to keep going, to keep striving even when we want to give up. And, if He tells us to be thankful and to praise Him in the midst of that situation, it’s because He knows the good that is coming even though we can’t see it.
Interestingly, Paul and Silas did not wait to get out of their prison to start praying and singing. They prayed and they sang while they were there. They did it when it was difficult to do it. And, when they prayed and sang to God, not only were they set free, but they were able to lead others to their Lord! (vv.25-34)
When we choose to be thankful and give God the praise in the midst of our pain, disappointment and discouragement God steps in and does the unexpected. We are free even when we are in prison and we are able to encourage others who need it. With God there is always a bigger picture.
If you have not accepted Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Lord and Saviour, I encourage you to do so today. Adversity is an unavoidable part of life. We can’t always escape it. Yet, when we choose an attitude of praise and thanksgiving in the midst of it, powerful things can happen, as God meets us where we are and does the impossible things that only He can do.
This blog provides inspirational nuggets inspired by the Word of God and serves to encourage and motivate Christians in their Christian walk.