Gen 50:20 “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…”
I’m reading a biography on Patrick of Ireland. I didn’t know much about the saint before I started…except for something about three-leaf clovers, leprechauns and lucky charms (which, though reminiscent of one of my favorite cereals, have nothing to do with the actual person). I researched online and thought I had a pretty good grasp of the basic outline of his life and even found some online translations of his two surviving letters. My respect and admiration for Patrick has been growing as I’ve learned more about him but reading this biography has been even more enlightening.
Patrick lived during the 5th century, right after the fall of Rome and around the same time of other giants of the faith, like Jerome and Augustine. This was just 400 years after Christ had ascended into Heaven. Patrick was born in England to parents of Roman nobility. His grandfather was a priest and his father was a deacon in the Christian church, which had by that time made its way by the Roman roads into England. Though he was classically trained by the church (which at that point was closer to the early house churches of Acts 2 than to the Roman Catholic Church of today), he did not believe his father’s religion but was like too many teenagers rolling his eyes in the back of the classroom.
When Patrick was 15 there was a raid on his village and he was taken by Irish slave traders to be sold on the West side of Ireland where he would tend sheep for his master. He spent 6 years as a slave in the cold, wet hills of north-western Ireland. As he sat out under the stars watching over the sheep remembering the comforts of home and the education that he had received there, the Lord saved his soul and was a constant companion to him. Eventually, he escaped through the treacherous bogs of central Ireland and returned to England on a merchant ship. Finally reunited with his family, it wasn’t long before Patrick had a Macedonian Call-type dream (Acts 16:9) in which he heard the voice of the Irish calling for him to return. After much training in the Word and in church matters, Patrick returned to Ireland to lead many to Christ.
Every once in a while I start to wonder why my life has turned out so differently than what I had planned. How is my ordinary life affecting anyone or anything? What impact am I making for the Kingdom? But Patrick’s unintentional training for his mission to Ireland encourages me that though I don’t see what good is coming from my circumstances, there is good. Nothing is wasted in God’s economy; everything has a reason. I’m sure Patrick didn’t see the good that would come from his enslavement, especially on that terrible night when he was violently snatched from his home in England. But Patrick’s God-ordained training as a slave was invaluable to his understanding of the culture, language, religions and customs in Ireland. It made him into the man who would have the right tools to win Ireland for Christ. In the same way, God will use all of our experiences—good, bad, mundane, boring, and exciting—to mold us into the man or woman that he created us to be for his glory so that we can walk in the “good works, which God has prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10). God works all things for good, even slavery in the cold, wet hills of Ireland (Rom 8:28).
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Cor 15:58