Perhaps you, like me, have been baffled by passages such as Acts 16:22-25, where Paul and Silas were beaten with rods, struck with many blows, thrown into prison, and had their feet fastened in stocks. Their response? Praying and singing hymns of praise to God, as fellow prisoners listened on.
Living in a society that has a drug to spare us from most of life’s pains, my natural focus is on the woes of painful situations. This focus results in moans, groans and prayers for miraculous healing, rather than prayers of worship and hymns of praise to our huge and marvelous God. Are the life styles and experiences of Bible figures such as these beyond what is possible in such a time as this in America? I confess that it seemed unrealistic and unfathomable.
The Bible has a phrase that I have begun to notice: “But God…” It turns out that I have “But God” moments too! Recently He decided to answer my questions about Paul and Silas’ experience in His own unique way.
As my family was preparing to spend the 2014 Memorial Day Weekend in the Nevada Desert riding our quads, my old helmet was missing. It was a bit beat up and ready for replacement anyway, so I stopped by the local motorsports shop to buy a cheap replacement. Long story short, the Lord quickly changed the focus from cheap to quality and He kept stressing that I needed it for that weekend. This limited me to the selection in the store. Realizing the significant cost I was faced with, I told the Lord that was too much. I love His one-line comebacks that always leave me speechless. This time was no exception: “Your brain is worth $….” What could I say to that? So I bought the Shoei helmet and reminded Him that it was His money, His problem.
As I hurriedly packed, the Lord said, “Take the bottle of Ibuprofen.” I told Him that I had some in the car. “Take the bottle of Ibuprofen.” And so I did.
I shared with one of my daughters the interesting things the Lord was doing. Her response was, “A heavy duty helmet and a whole bottle of ibuprofen… this doesn’t sound good. Are you sure you’re supposed to go?” I assured her that I was. A few days earlier I had considered staying home, to which the Lord had told me not to let anything keep me from going. It was interesting the level of peace I had. A feeling like He had everything under control – all of the details covered. I was the most relaxed I have ever been on such a trip!
Sunday afternoon my husband and I prepared to take a couple hours ride alone. As I fully geared up, he noticed that I had forgotten my chest protector and made sure I wore it. I also took some Ibuprofen prior to the ride as an old injury was bothering me. Of note is that about seven years prior to this I had been in a quad accident that resulted in breaking my sacrum in half. Since that time I had not been able to ride without fear.
On this particular ride we took a new trail, which offers challenges of the unknown. Actually I had an incredible ride. The fear was gone, and in its place was peace and joy. I found myself laughing and talking with the Lord as I rode, marveling over His creation and His greatness! Suddenly, at a speed of probably 40-50 miles per hour, my front left tire hit a hidden rock that apparently launched my quad with a spin. I hit hard head first on the new helmet. “Thank you Lord for the helmet.” Suddenly I felt a huge blast to my chest. “Thank you Lord for the chest protector.” I “came to” with the quad on me and the continued sense of peace and joy. Somehow I raised the quad off of me, freeing myself, but then wondered if I should have. My husband was nowhere in sight, as he had been leading and was a ways ahead of me. I asked the Lord to bring him back quickly. He did. As we made the 5-mile ride back to camp, I worked on remembering what had happened and rejoiced in the Lord. The pain could not overtake the joy.
Was I injured? Oh yes! A concussion (made worse by my history of traumatic brain injury), bruised ribs, whiplash, and a pain level that was so intense that I felt like I was going to pass out from the pain – and that actually sounded like a good idea. But I also felt blessed beyond measure! The spirit of fear had been defeated on this ride and replaced with the joy of the Lord even in the midst of injury! I suddenly had a new understanding of the “helmet of salvation” and the “breastplate of righteousness”, which the Lord is continuing to grow in my heart and life. Greater still has been the answer to my question: How is it possible to have an incredible ride, an amazing experience when extraordinary pain is encountered along the way? The Lord’s answer to me was this: “Remember when you hit your head? Remember when you received the huge blow to your chest? What visual do you have? None, because your eyes were on ME and your response was to continue talking with ME and to see MY provision. The pain was not the priority. That’s what made it an incredible ride from start to finish. That’s what Paul and Silas did. They had their focus so completely on ME that even the worst of pain could not overtake MY position in their hearts and lives, even in that moment.
This is the way I want to live the rest of my life. What about you?