Wednesday, 01 February 2023
How to react to pro-life persecution with joy, not fear or anger Oleksandr Pidvalnyi/Pexels

How to react to pro-life persecution with joy, not fear or anger

It’s midnight. The prison is dark and cramped, the stench of bodily odor and waste thick in the air. Here and there, a groan or whimper is heard.

But then, a different sound emerges. Not sounds of agony, but voices praying. And then the singing—the sound of worshipful hymns.

The groans and whimpers quiet; ears tune into the melody.

What can this be?

How can anyone dare to hope amid such stark despair? How can they praise God while chained, bruised and bleeding?

Paul and Silas make a choice that night. 

Acts 16 describes the rest of the story. 

A divinely orchestrated earthquake shakes the prison open, setting all the captives free, the suicidal jailor and his family come to Christ, and a new church is birthed in the community of Philippi.

But Silas and Paul have no idea this will be the outcome of their situation. They simply make a choice to praise while being severely persecuted.

They use the little bit of strength they have and invest it in joy.

How can we as Christians in life-affirming work emulate their example?

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When we are hit with opposition of various forms—malicious falsehoods, property damage, even threats on our lives—can we respond like these Christians in ancient times did?

Can we, too, overcome reactions like anger, fear, and anxiety?

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I doubt that Paul and Silas knew very much about brain science, but a bit of knowledge in that area might help us out on this topic.

Here’s how it works.

According to Dr. Earl Henslin in, This is Your Brain on Joy, the emotions of joy and anxiety travel the same pathway in the brain.

This means that if you choose joy, there is literally no room for anxiousness in your brain. You’ve kicked it out! 

The key to this whole thing is quite practical, too. 

The easiest way to choose joy is to give thanks.

It’s true that when you’re in a tough spot, giving thanks can be difficult at first. Do it anyway—deliberately and sacrificially.

Recount the goodness of God and all His attributes. Offer thanks for the many ways He has shown you His love and favor. 

Remember the many good things that have happened in your ministry and your life, including good things resulting from hard things.

Start listing it all. You’ll be amazed.

My husband and I have had moments where we both feel depressed at the same time. 

We have chosen to give specific thanks to God, starting with whatever random things come to mind.

It’s surprising how quickly an hour goes by when you build “thankfulness momentum”—and how your attitude does a one-eighty degree turn from despair to joyous hope!

Paul writes this to the congregation which resulted from his imprisonment,

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:4-7 (Emphasis mine.)

Paul has every right to give this instruction. He has suffered greatly for the gospel. He tells the Philippians twice to rejoice in case they brush off the first admonition.

He also writes to another congregation,

“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (Emphasis mine.)

This is the guy who was beaten to a pulp and thrown into a nasty inner prison. 

The man who, another time, was stoned and left for dead. Who endured hunger and hardship, not to mention dangers in the city, in the country, and on the sea (see 1 Corinthians 11:24-26).

Life can be difficult in these days for those of us in life-affirming ministry—but if it was possible to endure the trials Paul records, it is also possible to get through hardships in this ministry today.

As you face whatever comes your way, determine that you will offer the sacrifice of praise to God, no matter what. 

By doing so, you will glorify His name, uplift your own spirit, and be a witness to a watching world.

May those in a spiritual prison hear the praise emanating from your life, and may they find freedom.


Susanne Maynes

Susanne Maynes is the author of Unleashing Your Courageous Compassion:40 Reflections on Rescuing the Unborn, an educational devotional which uplifts and strengthens the pregnancy help community, and Releasing Your Brave Love: Helping Kids to Change Their World, a children’s life-affirming devotional. She is currently completing a Master of Theological Studies degree at Regent University.


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