Not long ago a man I know and love talked about his chronic pain. Every day no matter what he does, he cannot escape the pain he feels.
“It’s like being in prison,” he said.
Although chronic physical pain remains something I do not deal with, I can relate to chronic emotional pain. For years I battled severe depression from which I failed for a time to find an escape. I praise God He set me free over many years through counseling by Christian counselors—both lay and professional– and by the Holy Spirit.
During those years, and sometimes in more recent years and months when painful circumstances threaten to shatter my peace, I felt the same way my loved one does, “It’s like being in prison.”
But yet as I thought about the whole idea of pain and prison, Paul’s time behind bars which I read about in Scripture, came to mind.
This directive came too, Do what he did when he was in prison.
I studied Paul’s time in prison—especially in the book of Philippians–and compiled a list of what Paul did while in prison:
He prayed to God. Acts 16:25
He sang hymns of praise. Acts 16:25
He thanked God for others. Philippians 1:3
He prayed for others. Philippians 1:3
He wrote a letter of encouragement: his letter to the Philippians.
He saw the good of his prison time—“greater progress of the gospel.” Philippians 1:12
He rejoiced in the Lord. Philippians 1:18
He gave godly counsel. Philippians 2:14
He urged others to rejoice. Philippians 2:17, 4:4
He spoke of trusting God. Philippians 2:24
He reached out to meet the needs of others. Philippians 2:25
He believed Christ would be exalted in his body. Philippians 3:20
He encouraged others to let go of anxiety and to pray. Philippians 4:6
He encouraged others to control their thinking. Philippians 4:8
He learned about contentment. Philippians 4:11-12
He depended on Christ’s strength. Philippians 4:13
He gave glory to God. Philippians 4:20
He encouraged others to take hold of God’s grace. Philippians 4:23
AS I read the complete book of Philippians, I discovered Paul kept his focus on Jesus, shared his faith with others, maintained an excellent attitude and encouraged that in others, and sent life-changing teachings and warnings to fellow Christians.
What he didn’t do was complain, feel sorry for himself, withdraw from God or fellow Christians, or proclaim lies about the Lord and His goodness, IE, “God doesn’t love or care about me anymore,” or “God has abandoned me.”
Since I saw that my loved one and I tend to slip into the above negative behaviors during our “prison time,” my prayer for both of us centers on learning to handle difficult circumstances in a way which pleases God—the way Paul dealt with his time in prison.
The difference between Paul and myself comes to this: I tend to do what comes naturally. What Paul did was supernatural.
God wants me to live a supernatural life, which comes about by being vitally connected to Him. I accomplish this when I abide in Him and depend on the guidance of the Holy Spirit rather than what my mind tells me to think and do.
In the days ahead, as I continue to face various difficult circumstances over which I have no control, I pray for God to help me to be like Paul. I will review the list above on a regular basis and ask God to empower me to live it out.
Doing so will help me grow, will be a powerful witness to those who don’t know the Lord, and will bring glory to God.
I thank God in advance for all He’s going to do in me and through me as I embrace these truths.
“King of My Heart” by Kutless