by Sharon Betters
The light entered the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it... comprehend it, understand it.
What happened in that prison cell? Lots of miracles!
Pitch dark. No natural light. It’s midnight. Two men imprisoned on trumped up charges. Severely beaten, stripped of their clothing, put in stocks.
The jailer checks to make sure the prisoners are secured and then he goes to sleep.
Miracle: These two falsely imprisoned men don’t scream about their innocence and demand freedom. Instead around midnight, they started singing and praying loudly.
Miracle: They sing so loudly that the prisoners intently listened. The other prisoners didn’t yell for them to stop but instead wanted to hear the message of these loud men.
Miracle: Suddenly, an earthquake shook the jail and opened the cells.
Miracle: The prisoners stayed put.
Miracle: Thinking he would lose his life because surely the prisoners had fled, the jailer listens when Paul tells him that all of them are still there.
Miracle: The jailer asks how he can be saved.
Miracle: The jailer and his household believe and are baptized.
Miracle: The jailer cares for the wounds of Paul and Silas.
The light of Jesus entered that cell and pierced the darkness. The darkness could not stop His light.
To sing at midnight and live a life that is a broken hallelujah requires that we have an awe of the majesty of God and His ability to perform the miraculous - at His discretion. When our then seventeen-year-old son, Dan, learned of Mark's death, he began to wail and to cry out, "Mark, Mark, my brother, my brother, please, God, let him come back." Daniel wanted a miracle that we knew God would not perform. When people asked what they could do for me, I said, "Give me back my son." I wanted a miracle that God has promised to give me but in His time. Being able to sing at midnight means believing in God's power to perform those miracles: at His discretion, and in His time. It means having unclenched fists and a willingness to accept the treasures God chooses to give to us.
We must never lose a sense of the mystery and miraculous. Some have called these gifts, "God-sightings". I call them treasures in the darkness. I have learned that if my hands are clenched, I can’t receive the treasures.
The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego taught me this lesson. Their King, Nebuchadnezzar demanded that everyone bow down and worship him. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused:
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Daniel 3:16-18 NIV
These three men trusted God as their deliverer and protector. God was their Rock, Rest, Rescue and Refuge. Their understanding of His character and love compelled them to trust Him, whether He saved them from the fiery furnace or not. Their hands were open to His purposes and they did not fear what man could do to them. This was their broken hallelujah. Whether He saved them or not, they would not betray their God. Their response infuriated the King and he ordered the fires to be heated up even more. The furnace was so hot that those pushing the three men into the fire died because of the heat, and then the miracle:
Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.” He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them. Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent His angel and rescued His servants! They trusted in Him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.” Daniel 3:24-28
Though this is not a story about singing, I embrace it as a song of worship in the middle of the fiercest midnight imaginable. They stood before their God with hands open and hearts bowed in submission to His purposes, believing that if they died, God had an eternal purpose for their deaths and they trusted Him.
What a challenge for me, and for you. The older I get, the more I experience the freedom of those open hands and trusting God to bring about His purposes in my life. Such open hands also open my eyes to the priceless treasures He sends my way to remind me that He is the Lord my God; the One Who calls me by Name (Isaiah 45:2-3).
Are your hands open as you sing praises to God? If you struggle to surrender to God’s purposes, symbolically, intentionally unclench your fingers and open your hands as you pray. Don’t miss the treasures He promises to send you, in the darkness, in the prison, in secret places.
STORE UP MORE TREASURES
At some point in our lives, we or someone we know will go through great suffering. I encourage you to go the MARKINC website and listen to the interview “Help and Hope for the Caregiver: A Conversation with Peter Rosenberger" so that you can store up treasures of encouragement for the next rainy day in your life or someone else's. Here is a summary and teaser of this resource:
In this interview, Peter Rosenberger author of Hope for the Caregiver, candidly discusses the pressures a caregiver experiences when solely responsible for his or her spouse’s physical needs. He humbly admits that he has made every mistake possible and is passionate about helping other caregivers avoid those pitfalls.