Decisions in the Dark

Today I would like to deal with a very sobering topic from a lesson I taught in Sunday School this past weekend.  The entire lesson was from my newest book (the one that's not even finished yet) called "Footprints on the Water."  God revealed several interesting nuggets for the lesson, and I was eager to share them with the class and later with you.  But as I prayed over what portion to post this morning, I strongly felt the Lord leading towards the following excerpt from the story of Paul and Silas in prison.  I don't know why He chose this portion or who it's for, but I pray it will be a blessing to someone.

And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. - Acts 16:27

Poor guy! He was just trying to do his job, although I don't think he was actually supposed to be sleeping, but that's another thought for another day. This poor soldier is awakened from his sleep, no doubt by the earthquake, and the first thing he notices is that all of the cell doors are standing open. He naturally assumes the prisoners have escaped. Why wouldn't they? Why, indeed! In his forlorn state, his first instinct is to take out his sword and end his life.

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, yet sadly is the only solution some can see when surrounded by darkness. Statistics show that suicide is attempted once every 40 seconds in the US alone. For a myriad of reasons, people see death as their only option or escape. The Philippian jailer felt the same way. We can only imagine the thoughts that must have been running rampant through his mind, but I feel they were thoughts many of us can relate to.

I'm such a failure. Despite his desire to do his job, the jailer thought he had failed, and failure is a powerful thing. It can sap you of your strength and your joy. It can bring about feelings of worthlessness. It is a popular tool in Satan's workshop, one that's proven its effectiveness. It's a shame the jailer didn't have the words of Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Yes, failure is hard. Sure, it's difficult to get back up, dust ourselves off and try again. But our effort is not in vain, and we must remember that we are not walking alone.

My family would be better off without me. I often wonder how many times these have been someone's last words. They messed up (as we are all prone to do), but rather than bring disgrace to their family, they decide to end it all. The cause seems noble, but I guarantee you that if you asked that person's loved ones what they thought about it, they would tell you that they would much rather have lived with the shame than lost their loved one. In the heat of the moment, in the midnight hour, everything seems so dark and hopeless. That is not the time to make a decision. Wait for the dawn. If the jailer had waited until the light of dawn filled the prison, he would have seen that the prisoners were still there. He wouldn't have needed Paul's intervention. No matter how hopeless the situation may seem, give it time, and talk to your family. I'm sure they're willing to walk the road with you.

I have nothing left to live for. At this point, the jailer realizes that as soon as his superiors find out the prisoners have escaped, they're going to kill him. Mercy was not shown to those who failed to do their jobs. From the jailer's point of view, there was no reason to live. What he didn't see, however, was God's point of view. God wasn't done with this man. He still had a plan, a job that only this man could accomplish. From God's point of view, this man had so much to live for. When it seems as if you've lost everything and there's nothing worth living for, remember that you're only seeing from one point of view. God still has a plan for you. He's not done with you yet. He has a job that only you can do, and He'll give you everything you need to accomplish that job. Don't quit on God. He didn't quit on you.