I have read Acts 16 a number of times already, and one of the most powerful accounts of God’s faithfulness to His people is that of Paul and Silas in prison (Acts 16:25-31). In the past, I was able to identify with Paul and Silas and how their prayer and worship led to their freedom from the jail cell.
However, when I read the chapter again recently, I was struck by the story of the jailer. I could imagine him faithful to his job and really effective in it. Then here came 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).
Seeing the cell doors opened, he thought the prisoners had escaped. As a result, he almost tried to kill himself, if not for Paul who immediately told the jailer that they were still inside.
There was a point in my life when I almost quit my life, because I did something bad. No, I wasn’t on the verge of committing suicide, but I was planning to get away from my life back then, and start a fresh one somewhere outside of my hometown. I was convinced that the solution was to walk out in shame for what I did, and suffer the consequences of my actions in some unknown location.
My plan was to end the life that I was living, and start a new one by myself, albeit very reluctantly and with complete uncertainty.
It was then that God revealed Himself to me. I decided to let go and let God. My realization of total surrender was similar to what the jailer told Paul and Silas when he realized what had happened. The jailer “brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’” (Acts 16:30)
At my moment of desperation, I was shaken to the core and my eyes were opened, much like how the violent earthquake shook the jail doors open. I saw who I was: a flawed, sinful, and desperate person in need of help. I saw my rescuer – my Savior – in Jesus Christ. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” (Acts 16:31)
From that day forward, I chose to put my faith in God.
Following God’s direction made me realize that I didn’t need to turn away from everything. Instead, I just had to turn away from sin and from things that led to my undoing.
Today, I’m still very much connected to my hometown, instead of quitting on them. More importantly, I’m enjoying the company and love of my wife, instead of leaving in shame for what I have done in the past.
As I look back at this point in my life years ago, I cannot help but be thankful to God for stretching out His hand for me in my moment of desperation. Time and again, I may fail and get locked up in my own jail cell, but I am now confident that I have Someone who will shake the prison doors open to free me.