the story behind

s h o p  s u r r o u n d e d

nighttimes are always the hardest when i'm trudging through the thick of it. even when i'm not, but maybe drank a bit too much coffee too late in the day, lying awake past midnight can feel oppressive. like the physical darkness has a way of ushering in spiritual darkness. i am the most isolated. the most restless. the most susceptible to the enemy, telling me how terrible my ideas are, how unqualified i am, how this – this feeling, this situation, this heartbreak – will last forever.

His mercies are new every morning. joy comes in the morning. but by midnight? they feel worn and wrung out and used up, and there are still hours to go before sunrise. midnight feels like the peak of hopelessness. it's when i break, when i say, "i can't."

in acts 16, we read about how paul and silas are in prison, at midnight, praying and worshipping as the other prisoners listen in.

i'm sure the events of that day took a turn they weren't expecting. they're doing the work of the Lord, spreading the gospel of Jesus, the message of freedom. but a lot of people don't understand. it doesn't look like they think it should. in the same way, their situation doesn't look ideal. instead of literally walking in freedom, they're bound by actual chains in prison, surrounded by thick walls and bars locking them in, guards keeping watch, and ground that i imagine is not comfortable to sit on – let alone sleep on. they couldn't see what the next day would bring; they probably couldn't even see much of anything in that moment.

"at midnight" is such a telling detail. and yet what we read about that moment, in the same breath, is of their prayer, their worship, loud enough for the other prisoners to hear.

reading this recently, i was brought back to my own midnight, just a few weeks ago. my day had taken an unexpected turn that i felt unprepared for. sleepless and heavy, i sat at my desk with earbuds in, listening to worship music as i wrote the lyrics out on paper. You're not finished yet. You're not finished yet. You're not finished yet.

my situation didn't look like i thought it should. it didn't look like anything, actually. i wasn't physically imprisoned, but it felt like i was surrounded by walls and closed doors, locked in with no way out. i had no idea what the next day would bring.

i wonder if paul and silas felt worn down. i wonder if they felt weary, like they couldn't do it any more. i wonder if they questioned if they had enough strength for the task before them. i wonder if that's why they were praying and worshipping, to war against the spiritual darkness that tried to accompany the physical darkness.

i wonder, because that's what i was doing. the bridge in the song explains it this way, "until the dry bones wake, until the mountains shake, until the darkness breaks, i will praise You, i will praise You." i was writing the truth, in thick black ink, again and again until the darkness breaks.

i taped the pages to my wall to keep singing over me as i slept, to remind me when i woke, to be a form of tangible truth in the midst of chaotic and unstable feelings.

it's my version of prayer and worship at midnight. this is how i fight my battles.

i write that sentence down and listened to that song next, and i think that's what paul and silas were remembering.

it may look like we're surrounded by the enemy, but we're surrounded by You. You're as close as the mention of Your name. closer than the walls and the ground and the chains that bind us.

my circumstances may look confusing. what i can see and what i can touch may look like bondage and dead ends.

but verse 26 says there was an earthquake and the foundations of the prison were shaken and everyone's (paul and silas and all the other prisoners) chains were loosed.

which means, the thing that appears to be surrounding us, holding us captive, and chaining us down is not standing on a firm foundation. they can be shaken. they will be shaken.

maybe you're a prisoner too. maybe you're awake at midnight. maybe you need reminding that your foundation is unshakeable.

let me remind you. let me sing over you. i'm praying and worshipping for my freedom, and for yours too.

that's why i created shop surrounded.