But I Don’t Feel Like
Read Acts 16:22-25 (ESV)
The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison 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.
Have you ever known that you should worship and pray at some particular moment but you just didn’t feel like you could? What were the circumstances and what did you do about it?
Yesterday, we read about how we should worship with joy and gladness. But if we are being honest, sometimes our circumstances are so tough, we just don’t feel as though we can muster up the strength to pray or sing. We’ve all been there.
But today’s verses should challenge and encourage us in those moments to sing and pray anyway. In Acts 16, Paul and Silas had been spreading the Gospel in the city of Philippi when they angered the locals and became the victims of a mob. Their “crime” had been casting a demon out of a slave girl whose fortune telling abilities had been earning her owners a significate amount of cash. But when she was no longer possessed by the demon, she lost her power to tell the future and they lost their money maker.
The slave’s owners dragged them to the authorities and stirred up a citywide riot so the magistrates ordered Paul and Silas flogged. They were stripped, severely beaten with rods, and then they were tossed into prison. The jailer didn’t take any chances with the possibility of escape and put them in an interior cell with their feet in the stocks.
That’s what makes the next verse so surprising. Verse 25 says that Paul and Silas were praying and even singing to God in their prison cell! How could they sing in a time like that? They had to have been in a significant amount of pain. They had to have been discouraged—angry even. They didn’t deserve the treatment they had received. They didn’t know how it was all going to end or when they’d be let out. The feeling of being so out of control had to have been overwhelming. Yet, despite their circumstances, they held a midnight worship service, right there in the midst of the jail where the other prisoners could overhear.
What a lesson for all of us! We are to worship and praise God despite our circumstances. We are to pray even in pain and sing to the Lord even through tears. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17).
David wrote Psalm 34 when he was on the run, fleeing for his life from King Saul. Even so, he said, “I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice” (Psalm 34:1-2, NIV, emphasis mine).
Friends, it isn’t always easy, but we can rejoice despite our circumstances because we have a hope beyond our earthly situations. In Philippians 3:20, Paul wrote “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul and Silas demonstrated that they understood this truth and that is why they were able to sing and pray. They understood that their hope and future is in heaven. While they waited on the Lord, their Savior, they worshiped Him.
Not only will turning our eyes to Jesus and worshiping through our pain make our trials more bearable but it also serves as a powerful witness to others. In Paul and Silas’ case, God answered their prayers with a miracle—an earthquake that broke down the prison doors and knocked the chains off their feet. This led to the salvation of the jailer, who had witnessed it all, and his entire house! God had a purpose for their painful earthly circumstances and worked through their obedience for His glory and the eternal salvation of an entire household. Who knows how many people God is bringing to Himself through our obedience to worship, even when we don’t feel like it!
Lord, I confess that sometimes, I don’t feel like praying or rejoicing. In those moments, help me to turn my eyes off my painful circumstances and turn them to You. Give me the strength to praise You through my pain and sing to You even if it’s through tears. My hope is in You alone. Amen.