So it turns out that Acts is about the most riveting, exciting book of the Bible you’ll ever read. I’ve read it before, lots of times but I’ve never really, really read it. It’s like lately, I’m reading my Bible with the spiritual equivalent of Google glasses. I can see things I didn’t see before. It’s as though I can feel the emotions of the authors, the feelings of the characters. It’s come alive.
So today I was reading Acts 12
Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.”
Acts 12:11 NIV
…from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen….
I can almost imagine the scene. Paul is in a filthy, rat-infested prison, shackled to a wall. All around him are the screams of prisoners being tortured and the daily ritual of yet another trespasser being hauled off for beheading.
Once you were in that prison, there wasn’t much else to do but think.
I wonder, if among every other thought, Paul struggled with the idea that If Herod gets me this time, my enemies will be DELIGHTED…they’ve wanted this for so long…’
When you’re in the middle of a deeply unjust situation, that can be one of the most troubling, vicious thought processes, of how your enemies will respond and laugh when they discover the mess you’re in.
In fact, I wonder sometimes if that type of thinking bothers us more than the injustice itself.
How much they’ll laugh. How cocky they’ll be. How they’ll think they’ve won
Paul seems to indicate this is part of his thought process, when he thanks God for delivering him from what the Jewish people hoped would happen.
At some point, we’ve all done it, laid awake in fury, mulling over injustice. The very thought of the other side ‘winning’ makes your bones melt to mush.
And yet through all Paul’s suffering in that filthy hell-hole, the endless hours of thinking, sleeping, praising, mulling, all the things you’d do when you had nothing else to do, God was working out a plan.
An angel was literally going to walk into the prison, past the guards, unclamp Paul from his shackles and set him free. Of all the things Paul thought might happen, I can’t imagine he saw that one coming.
I wonder if sometimes, while we stew and mull and over-think some of the situations we find ourselves in, that we’re forgetting to think about what God might be about to do?
Dwelling on the negative ‘what ifs’ is the easiest thing in the world.
But what if, instead of looking at the filth and the shackles and the rats and the iron bars, we started instead to get lost in imagining what God might do? What he can do? What might be just around the next corner?
I’ve been challenged lately to find and stir up that crazy bit of faith which (for me) is often buried under piles of ‘realistic thinking’.
But instead, I’m learning to throw off what I can see, what I think could happen and exchange it instead for the world of what God could do instead.
I can tell you right off the bat, which one I prefer.