Acts 26:21-22, 30-32 [In his defense before Governor Festus, King Agrippa, and his wife Bernice, Paul said] “Some Jews arrested me in the Temple for preaching that all men must repent of their sins and turn to God, and they tried to kill me. But God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest …” Then the king, the governor, Bernice, and all the others agreed, “This man hasn’t done anything to deserve death or imprisonment.” And Agrippa said to Festus, “He could have been set free if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar.”
Sometimes, God uses what seems to us flat out wrong for our good and to accomplish his purposes.
Karis recognized this—eventually. For a long time, her goal was to live in sub-Saharan Africa to work as a journalist in defense of women’s rights. She designed her own major at Notre Dame to that end, including study of Arabic and French. She never made it to Africa. She was crushed when her doctors said, “Absolutely no way.” She described herself to me as a prisoner of her body and of those who cared for it. During her last years, she seldom made it out of Pittsburgh. We were thrilled when she could be home from the hospital from time to time.
But God brought Arabic and French speakers to Karis, not just from Africa but from Middle Eastern countries as well. Her chief surgeon was Egyptian and attracted to Pittsburgh intestinal transplant patients from across the Arabic-speaking world. They found here a small blonde woman in a hospital gown toting an IV pole just like theirs, who spoke their language and loved them.
Paul spent two years (!) as a prisoner in Caesarea, first under Governor Feliz and then under Governor Festus. During that time, he was brought out to testify multiple times, although all the Roman authorities agreed he had done nothing deserving death or imprisonment. Ironically, God used his captivity to protect him. Had he been set free, his enemies would have killed him. Instead, (spoiler alert) he will travel to Rome (Acts 23:11) under the safety provided by Roman law to its arrested but not-yet-tried citizens.
A Brazilian idiom says, “I was happy and didn’t know it.” Are you dealing with constraining, unjust circumstances? Sometimes what we most struggle against, God uses to protect us from greater harm. One day, we’ll understand it all, from the perspective of the One who loves us more than we can comprehend.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6