Acts 16:22-31 "The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.' The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought then outside and said,'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' They answered, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.' " (NRSV)
The psalmist wrote, "I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth." Psalm 34:1 (NRSV)
Sometimes we have to face circumstances that are outside of our control. Shelley Pierce, from Tennessee, discovered that when she received a message telling her that her mom, hundreds of miles away from her, was nearing the end of her battle with cancer. Just two weeks before, her mom had been strong and hopeful. Shelley's emotions spilled over - anger that she couldn't be near her mom, sorrow for what would never be, and panic as she searched for something, anything, that would make her better. As she prayed her heart cried out, "Lord! I don't know what to do!"
In times like this, we can look to Paul and Silas to show us what to do. Here they were chained in the darkness of prison, their bodies wracked with pain from the beatings. They faced circumstances beyond their control; yet, they prayed and sang hymns to God, and their fellow prisoners listened. God heard their prayers, and in response to their faith freed them from their physical prison. God then freed the jailer and his family from spiritual prison.
In her moments of desperate sadness that day, Shelley chose to praise God, trading anger for thankfulness for God's presence. Sorrow over what was lost was replaced with praise for what she had and for the promise of eternity. Panic moved out and peace moved in. When we don't know what to do, we can do what we know how to do: offer praise and trust God to free us from the worries that hold us captive.
Prayer: Dear God, help us to keep Your praise continually on our lips and in our hearts. Amen.