Sometimes I think I am crazy. And today is one of those days. My husband is two rows up from me on a flight down to Florida, and if I told him that I wasn’t going to take my anxiety medicine to help me to be calm on the flight, he would have definitely said “no way, not happening” (sorry babe, it’s true, and you may read this before we land!). There was a part of me that was going to take it “just in case”, but then I realized that was a pretty faithless decision.
And yesterday, I would have deemed getting on a plane today near impossible. Yesterday I was faced with something that brought me to the edge of a panic attack. It was the worst time imaginable. I was already beginning to fear getting on a flight today, this thing that I was faced with, was definitely the last thing I needed.
I was weak, God was strong.
And I knew it. But so did God. But He also knew it was going to happen, which also meant that He went before me. For Him, even in the midst of our “surprise” (whether those surprises are pleasant or not), nothing surprises Him. He also knew that I could succumb to panic and fear, or rest in Him, my Solid Rock on which I can stand, or the Strong Tower in which guards, guides, and protects me. And when David continually praises God in his psalms for being strong and mighty, a fortress, and shield, a refuge, and a strength, I am pretty sure that he is talking about God protecting his physical body, but just important, his heart.
I took deep breathes, got to my car as quick as possible (without completing what I had set out to do), and tried to remind myself that God was the Mighty Fortress that David praises in so many of his psalms. And David knew this better than anyone else.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. The God of Jacob is our fortress. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (portions of Psalm 46). And I can easily forget that these truths are not based on my circumstance. It was no mistake that today I was reading Acts 16, where Paul and Silas are thrown in prison. I imagine the prisons back then are not like the prisons that we have today. I imagine that they were dark, and dirty. Cold. And for many it was a death sentence, and not much hope in getting out. And sometimes that is how our fear can feel.
What is the one thing that didn’t change for Paul and Silas?
Yet, here in prison, there is something that didn’t change for Paul and Silas. Their praise.
I am not sure what the other prisoners were doing (but I do know what they heard because the Word says they were listening). They heard Paul and Silas praying and singing songs of praise.
Have you ever wondered what exactly they were singing? I find it interesting that one of the translations (taken from my Blue Letter Bible app) of the usage of the word “hymns”, hymneo, in this scripture is “the singing of paschal hymns these were Psalms 113-118, and 136, which the Jews called the ‘great Hallel’”. The “great Hallel” was Psalm 136, and was used in the morning service on the Sabbath, festivals, and during the Passover seder.
So what are some of the lines in this song that it is possible they were singing?
Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD, you his servants; praise the name of the LORD. 2 Let the name of the LORD be praised, both now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised. The LORD is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is like the LORD our God, the One who sits enthroned on high. Psalm 113: 1-5
You who fear him, trust in the LORD— he is their help and shield. The LORD remembers us and will bless us: he will bless those who fear the LORD— small and great alike. It is we who extol the LORD, both now and forevermore. Praise the LORD. Portions of Psalm 115
What were they singing?
I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the LORD: “LORD, save me!” Our God is full of compassion. The LORD protects the unwary; he saved me. For you, LORD, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling
Or my personal favorite considering what happens next for Paul and Silas… Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob. Psalm 114:7
Were these the words they were singing? Were these the praises they sang? I don’t know, but it is definitely possible because of exactly what happens next.
Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.
Acts 16:26. Hmmm. “Tremble earth at the presence of the Lord? Interesting…
Why does this still have victory over you?
This is what my husband asked yesterday. It was really bad timing for him to say this, but he was right (but I will add again, still really bad timing). My fear doesn’t change who God is. Just like the fear, and prison walls, didn’t change the ability of God to do what only God can do. Trample fear, shake the prison walls, and loosen everyone’s chains. Yes, everyone, all the prisoner’s who were listening. And if you read further into the chapter, it changed the life of the jailer too.
Let’s be free.
They say Jesus plus nothing equals everything, but there are times that I can add “something” to my need for Jesus. Or even the other way around, I can add Jesus, to my “something”. I can add fear to my praise, praise to my fear, and something to my need for the One who is everything.
But that is not the gospel.
The gospel is that Jesus is enough. He is enough to praise, He is more than enough to worship, and His ways are higher than our ways so that when we praise Him, we are free. Period.
Let’s all be free, because we praise the One who sets us free.