At the family cottage, our bathroom reading includes a book titled, "Don't forget to sing in the lifeboats" by Kathryn and Ross Petras. I wonder if they ever read the story in Acts 16 about Paul and Silas.
The two missionaries had been beaten by a mob, flogged, manacled and locked into the inner cell of a Philippian jail. Unjustly arrested, stuck in a tiny room with a bunch of criminals. Paul & Silas would have been perfectly justified in bemoaning their fate as the darkness of midnight settled in.
How's life in your prison? Quarantined, chained to your work laptop, experiencing interminable 'quality time' with the special people in your life?
If the Grinch has been listening to the Philippian prison, he might have reported that "he did hear a sound rising over the snow./ It started in low, then it started to grow./ But this sound wasn't sad!/ Why, this sound sounded glad!" (Dr Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas) For "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them" (Ac 16:25 NIV)
A lot of amazing thing happened after that, but, really, this was the first miracle of the evening. Bruised, beaten, chained in darkness, singing and praying to God?
What would they have sung? Holy, Holy, Holy? What a Friend we have in Jesus? What praise was on their lips? What were they thankful for? How did they turn this night to worship, miracles, evangelism and salvation?
There are, right now, Christians who are in actual prisons for their faith, and emulating Paul and Silas, as they endure their troubles. One Chinese Christian was so joyful in captivity that the guards needed to separate him from the others he was having too positive an effect! They assigned him the most disgusting job they could find - shovelling out the latrines. Rather than break his spirit, prisoners and guards alike could see from a distance that his joy was unabated. There in the solitude and stench, where no guard would approach to harass him, he continued to sing the praise of God, and a particular favourite was a Chinese rendition of "I come to the Garden alone."
We have troubles right now. no denying that. But in these trouble we have an unparalleled opportunity to act like cloistered Trappists, rather than trapped animals. CHRI Radio (99.1FM) here in Ottawa plays encouragement and praise everyday in the Magic 100 musical spectrum. YouTube has the whole range of worship music available - from Chris Tomlin to George Beverly Shea; Carolyn Arends to DC Talk; Michael Card to Keith Green. "Hey Google, play some Christian worship music."
Rather than binge on Netflix, and reread pulp fiction we can embark on a journey of praise and growth, in which we pursue God with music, scripture and thanksgiving. Some people have to pay big money to retreat from the busyness of life, while we are handed the opportunity to find that single-minded peace at home.
James 4:8 has a surprisingly relevant word for our time: "Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." Yes, wash those hands, (soap and water, for 20 seconds) and draw near to God! There is always a good side to being stuck at home with Jesus.