If Paul’s imprisonment could serve a beautiful purpose, so can the adversity of a global pandemic.
Paul had no doubts about the redemptive purposes of his imprisonment: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel…” (Philippians 1:12–13, ESV).
If you are facing difficulty or enduring hardship, God is going to use these challenging times for noble purposes. God authors no evil. God takes no delight in your suffering. He is sovereign over your circumstances, which means that He can redeem any situation.
Though Paul wrote the Philippian epistle from prison, the apostle saw the hand of God at work in his suffering and incarceration. From the time of his imprisonment at Jerusalem through his imprisonment at Rome, Paul experienced riot, two years of incarceration at Caesarea, a threat on his life, a shipwreck and house-arrest. Yet the Gospel advanced.
Paul’s incarceration put him in contact with a select group of leaders, soldiers and Roman officials who came under the sound of the Gospel, and a new evangelistic zeal emerged in the church at Rome.
We’d like to make sense of life by putting everything into a tidy box. Life’s simpler if we can label everything either black or white. But life isn’t like that. Life is a mixture of sorrows and joys that, somehow, God weaves together into a tapestry of grace. Paul’s imprisonment was bad, but there was good happening in the midst of it.
If you were to ask me about some of the greatest sorrows of my life, I’d surely include the breakup of my childhood family. My dad left home when I was in fourth grade. I’d have done almost anything to have my parents back together happy and healthy. But, if you ask me about the most spiritually formative experiences that have built my faith, I’d certainly include the sad dissolution of my parents’ marriage. When my father left home, my mother called out to God for help. He answered her via a friend who introduced her to a personal relationship with Christ. In turn, my mom shared Christ with me and our family joined a powerful, gospel-centered church that shaped me into who I am.
Wrongful imprisonment, marital breakups and pandemics are bad – but God can use them for the advancement of the Gospel so, in that sense, they can be good. Whatever you’re going through now, take heart. God can use it for good. And that’s the Gospel!