“Even when our situation does not change for the better,
we can change for better.”
As I write this post, I am in the midst of wrapping up leading the Bible Study, When God Doesn’t Fix It by Laura Story. In this study Laura has guided the participants by sharing how we can take our why questions and make them how questions. In other words, the circumstances we face can be used to witness to other people and how it can bring glory to God. In the midst of crisis we count our blessings over choosing to be bitter about a situation.
In one of the sessions, the participants were asked to read Acts 16:16-31. We find Paul and Silas are continually being followed by a slave girl aka fortune-teller for many days. It gets to the point that Paul becomes very annoyed with this girl. After days of her following them and repeatedly saying the same thing day after day, Paul commands the spirits of the slave girl/fortune-teller to leave her. Once the spirits had left this girl, the crowd was upset because they saw the hope for prosperity they had placed in this girl was gone. Thus, Paul and Silas are beaten/flogged and placed in prison where their feet were placed in stocks.
Paul and Silas
Beaten, flogged, and feet in stocks Paul and Silas did not become bitter, angry nor questioned why. Instead, they prayed and sang praises to God. As they prayed and sang praises to God, the earth shook and the prison doors were opened and those who were bound up were now free. At this point, Paul and Silas could have chosen to flee from the prison cell but they stayed. Why?
We Read On
We continue to read when the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors opened he drew his sword on himself. His first thoughts were the prisoners had escaped. Yet, he heard Paul speak from the prison cell, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.’ We read on in verses 29-31, “And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?‘ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household’.” (ESV)
Why did Paul and Silas chose to pray and praise God in the midst of their circumstances? Why didn’t they flee as soon as the prison doors were opened by the earthquake? The answer is simple. They chose to pray and praise God in the midst of their circumstances because their hope was in God. They knew that in the midst of all that was going on their situation would be used to bring glory to God.
And, their circumstance did bring glory to God. Their why became a how. By not escaping as soon as the prison doors opened, they became a witness to the jailer. When the jailer saw they had stayed his heart was opened to want to hear the Good News of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ. If Paul and Silas had chosen to escape the moment the prison doors opened, the jailer would have never heard about the gift of salvation and would have probably killed himself.
Sometimes our difficult situations may not be a medical issue, a job loss, loss of family member but it may be a situation that we are in with a person. In the midst of the situation we know we must let go and let God. Yes, sometimes easier said than done. In our humanness we want to give God our itinerary on how the problem will be solved.
Have you ever known someone that is constantly coming up to you with the same story and/ or tendency time after time. We think to ourselves, will they just let it go? There may be times we see the person coming towards us and we just want to run the other direction. Just as Paul became annoyed with the slave girl following him we become annoyed with the person. Our questions on the situation turn into why questions.
Turning the Why into How
In order to turn the why into how we have to do a couple of things first. The first thing we must do is pray not only for the situation but for the person and for ourselves as well. The next thing we must realize that Satan loves for someone to hold onto to things and create chaos among people. This person who will not let go is letting Satan have control of their heart. I tell people it is like having a vehicle stuck in the mud trying to get out and all that happens is the wheels spin and mud slings everywhere. Thus, we must surrender ALL to Jesus. We need to put our trust in Him. In other words, follow the example of Paul and Silas putting their hope and trust in God in the midst of their prison sentence.
Once we have surrendered ALL to Jesus, we have to wait. Waiting is hard. In the midst of this waiting this person may continue to do what they do. What do we do when this happens? As my mom would say, “smile and be nice.” In other words, extend grace and continue to pray for the person, the situation and seek how God can use you in this situation to show Christ-like love and action. It is in how we respond to the situation and person that is our testimony of what grace is about and what God expects from us as Christians. Yet, as we do these things, we need to be guarded knowing this person’s tendencies and we must set boundaries. Extending grace does not mean making oneself a doormat.
There are times when we are given no choice but to walk away. However, it does not mean we wash our hands in it as Pilot did when it came to his decision regarding Jesus being crucified. We may need to walk away to reflect, to establish new boundaries, and to seek forgiveness towards the person. In return, we are to seek the good qualities of the person and to simply seek what God is trying to teach us from the situation. You may never know… God may be preparing you for an experience in your walk with Him. When obstacles arise, you can know that these things are from God when three things happen. One, circumstances will bring you to where God wants you to be. Two, you will be brought into the picture to be a blessing to someone else, and Three, God will be glorified.
Personally, I have been in such situations over the years. As difficult and frustrating these situations were, I have learned more about myself. I have learned to pray even more fervently and to seek where God’s hand is at work. Yes, I will be honest with you that in the midst of these situations I wanted to take control because God wasn’t working fast enough for me. It is when I didn’t let go and let God that I allowed Satan to create more chaos. Thus, the wheels became even more stuck in the mud and spun more mud out onto those around me.
The Turn Around
How do we turn the why into how with the person keeps being like the slave fortune-teller? We simply ask guidance from God. We ask Him how we can be a witness to this person. Grace is sometimes extended by not responding to some of the person’s comments/actions and by not going around gossiping about the situation or other person. We do what the Bible teaches us and that is to go to our brother or sister that we have the problem with and talk with them. If talking with them does not work, then we go to the next line of authority and talk with them about how to handle the situation and sometimes intervening on our behalf.
Just as Paul and Silas had the opportunity to escape when the prison door opened we have the opportunity to run the other direction. It could be easy to sweep the circumstances under the rug. Yet, as Christians, we must take a higher road as Paul and Silas did in not escaping. As difficult as it may be, we must see the situation through. And, as we walk through the trial, the person needs to see us praying and praising God for the good things He has done. They need to see where we have put our joy and hope. Our joy and hope is in Christ alone. It is through our actions we are testifying the meaning of God’s grace and mercy. Hopefully, as we continue to pray and praise God, and walk in Christ-like love, the person can see the joy we have by letting go and letting God. Just as the jailer saw that Paul and Silas had something he wanted….salvation and to be set free through the Blood of the Lamb.
As we journey in the days ahead, may we seek God in all situations. It is important to remember that no matter the circumstances we face our hope is in Christ alone. God has a plan and it is a good plan that will bring glory to Him. Let’s let go and let God.
And we know that for those who love God ALL things work together for good,
for those who are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 (ESV)