When I reflect on a day that’s gone badly I am tempted to assume that I’m reaping the reward of my bad choices. I tend to think that God would only allow this stuff to happen because I have messed up in some way. Sometimes just a bout of man flu is enough to get me thinking like this!
As Paul is sat in prison, at the end of his terrible day (Acts 21-23), I wonder if he is asking similar questions:
“Is this happening because of my poor choices?”
“Have I stepped outside of God’s will?”
We will never know exactly what Paul was thinking and I’m not trying to make Paul out to think like I do. What we do know is what God says at this moment in time (verse 11): “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”
God’s priorities stand out here:
Paul’s mind (“take courage”)
Paul’s mission (“you must testify”)
God cares about Paul’s mission but also cares about the state of Paul’s mind. God recognises that Paul has been through incredibly traumatic experiences and He speaks to Paul about that. Then, in the same breath, God gives Paul direction on what will happen next. This direction is to prepare Paul for what is to come but also to reassure him that God is at work in all that is happening.
If you’re having a bad day, or you’re in the middle of horrible circumstances, I believe God’s priorities are the same. He wants you to take courage from him, and he wants to use your situation (however terrible) for his glory. If you’re still not sure, read the words that Paul wrote to the church in Rome, some time after this ordeal: “...we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him...” (Romans 8:28)