Todays meditation on Acts 16:25-40 (in which Paul and Silas were singing hymns to God and inspiring other prisoners, even after they had just been flogged) from Forward Day by Day was first published in 1962. Authors are always anonymous:
“The world always listens when we Christians sing in our midnight hour. What wins people to Christ is not our sound doctrine or our beautiful worship or our high moral standards… It is the courage and joy which sings out from our souls when midnight misery descends upon us.
I will be thinking long and hard about this. It resonates with my father's teaching that the test of our character is always in the way we handle the tough times, not the way we conduct ourselves when everything's going our way.
While the inspiration for this meditation is Christian scripture, I urge you to contemplate its significance, regardless of your religious persuasion. Your ability to connect with others…your ability, even, to connect with God…is, I believe, reflected in your ability and willingness to find gratitude and joy — yes, even courage — in the midst of your life's darkest moments.
I remember some wise advice: just because we don't feel grateful or joyful at any particular time doesn't mean we can't reach down deep inside and “act as if” until things lighten up a bit. I know this is not easy. I know that I do not always practice it. But I believe it to be good advice, and I am going to practice more from now on.
Just as an athlete's practice prepares her for the actual race, practicing spiritual habits that I know to be sound and healthy will ensure that I am fit when times get tough. Then the song of joy that is so easy to sing now, when I see nothing but good all around me, will still find its way to my lips when I find myself in a darker place.
And when those we care about are in the midst of darkness or despair, perhaps the most important gift we can give them is the quiet comfort of our love and presence so that they have something to hang onto until their own song can find its way to their lips again.
Lord, use me as a conduit for your love. Help me stay spiritually fit so that when I face challenges or find someone in need, joy and courage will spring from my soul and bear your message of love and hope. AMEN.