“Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” Acts 16:28
Maybe you are not one of those people who sometimes struggle to find hope in a dark and cruel world, but I got to tell you, I am. And when I find something in scripture that I can relate to, no matter how miserable it is, it gives me hope. Hope that I am not the only one. I am not alone.
In Acts 16 Paul was imprisoned for healing a demon-possessed girl. He was under a maximum security Roman prison of his time. So what does Paul do? He prays, sings hymns to God, the foundation shakes and the prison doors are flung wide open. Paul and all the other prisoners were set free from their jail cells. Their chains were broken and they were free to go.
For a prison guard this was a nightmare. His job was to keep the prisoners from escaping. Failure to live up to that expectation generally resulted in death. No matter if it was his fault or not, this prison guard appeared to mess up, to fail, big time. And he thought there was no other hope, no other way for him, because he was going to die anyway.
So, maybe to get the last laugh, maybe to resume some level of control in an uncontrollable situation. Maybe to put an end to his sudden agony of fear and anxiety or worry. Maybe because his apparent failure was too much for him to handle. Or perhaps to die with dignity, on his own terms. No matter what the reason, the prison guard had chosen in Acts 16:27 to draw “his sword and was about to kill himself.”
What!?! Yes, he was about to kill himself. To commit suicide, because it appeared as if his apparent failure would kill him anyway.
Only Paul recognizes what is about to happen here. His chains have been broken, the doors have been flung wide open and Paul has the opportunity to leave his prison, his bondage. You would think that he would have high tailed it out of that prison as fast as he could, but he does not. He stays. Paul and the other prisoners stay in the prison. They have the choice of freedom, the choice of leaving their bondage and yet they stay in the prison with the prison guard.
Paul, seeing what the prison guard was about to do shouts, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”
Paul, a man set free by God, stays in prison to save a man’s life. Paul, though he had the opportunity, the right, the freedom to leave the prison, stays and dwells in the jail a little while longer to save someone else stuck in his own kind of bondage. That day the prison guard and all the prisoners became baptized on the belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Maybe you do not suffer from depression or suicidal thoughts. Maybe you do not understand why I would even choose to write about a topic that appears so dark and gloomy. Maybe you are one of those Christians who does not understand why I choose to talk about such a gloomy topic when there is so much to be joyful about.
If you are one of those people, I just want to say, I get it. Joy is good. Christ gave us freedom and that is awesome. But look at Paul. He had the opportunity for freedom, the right and yet he chose to pass his immediate freedom to save a man’s soul. And in doing so, he saved many.
Maybe you do suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts like the prison guard. Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever felt like the situation that you are going through is too painful, too difficult to live with or in? Have you ever felt like you have messed up so bad that your life is without repair or hope? Have you ever been in so much pain, you just wanted it to end?
You are not alone. I have been there too. And while in no way can I possibly understand what you are going through, I want to tell you, that you are not the only one. You are not the only one who has felt this way. You are not the only one who has wanted it, life, to simply be over. Do yourself no harm. When no one understands, God does. I do.
Perhaps you are thinking that you do not have that kind of support system. The kind of community that would tell you not to harm yourself and that would actually be there for you. The people in your life are not able to get in the prison and simply be with you. I want to tell you, even Jesus, the Son of God, felt that way. In Mark 14:34 Jesus said, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”
Jesus asked His three friends to stay awake with Him in His darkest hour, and they could not even do that. They fell asleep on Him. They could not stay with Him in His darkest time of need. We have a God who understands the human condition. Who understands what it is like to be misunderstood and rejected. Who understands our pain and suffering. Who understands what it means to be let down, by ourselves and others. Knowing that I am not the only one who has felt this way gives me hope that I am not alone, and I pray that it gives you hope too.