Does it seem to you that the world, maybe even your life, keeps lurching from one crisis to another? How can we stay calm and content in crises?
Paul, the apostle, claimed he had found the answer to this question: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content,” he said (Philippians 4:11). And this man of faith practiced what he preached. When he and his fellow missionary, Silas, were beaten and thrown into prison with their feet locked in stocks, they prayed and sang praises at midnight. Their praying could have been predicted (most of us pray when we’re in trouble), but these suffering servants of God broke into songs of praise in prison. Even in jail, they were joyful.
Conditions were far from ideal in that dismal place. Tomorrow was uncertain and the present was painful. How could they sing and praise God with their back bruised and bleeding from the recent whippings they had received and with their feet locked in those hated stocks?
The answer lies in their ability to focus on what they had rather than on what they had lost and their choice of faith over feelings. If this was to be their last night, they refused to waste it feeling down over their problems. Even in this dark place and under almost unbearable conditions, they knew they were not alone because God was with them. The night was dark but they knew the Lord was their light and this drove their clouds away.
Instead of being overcome by their problems, Paul and Silas started giving thanks and soon broke into a dungeon doxology. The other prisoners were so deeply moved that when God answered the prayers of these faithful men by sending an earthquake that shook the doors of the prison off their hinges, not one tried to escape. They all remained to hear what Paul and Silas had to say.
You may find yourself in an unpleasant situation. You’re tired of problems and feel whipped by one crisis after another. You wonder if life will ever get back to normal. In addition, the stress caused by these difficulties has subjected you to emotional pain as real as any physical discomfort you’ve ever experienced. How can any of us remain tranquil when life gets tough?
Here’s one possibility! We can start thanking God for His love and the basics of life that we’re prone to take for granted. Thanksgiving opens the door for contentment to enter. Darkness soon departs and light breaks through…even when we’re in jeopardy.
Paul had a quiet heart in the face of suffering and possible death because of his absolute confidence that God was working everything out for his good (Romans 8:28). He was convinced that he lived within the circle of God’s love and this confidence enabled him to rise above the circumstances.
Let the storms come, let the key turn in the lock of the prison door giving entrance to his persecutors, let the whip fall on his back again and again. No matter. This trusting man was persuaded nothing could separate him from the love of God and this made him content in every crisis.
Roger Campbell is an author, a broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org