(The following is the May 16 devotional from my Next Step Devotions book. Before reading it, I suggest you read Acts 8 and pay close attention to verses 1-4.)
Following Stephen’s martyrdom, we read: “On that day a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and mourned over him. Saul, however, was ravaging the church. He would enter house after house, drag off men and women, and put them in prison. So those who were scattered went on their way preaching the word” (vv. 1-4). How helpless the persecuted must have felt against Saul, frightened enough to leave their homes and scatter in all directions.
But God used it for good (Rom. 8:28). How could the gospel reach all nations if its proclaimers stayed in their hometowns? How could the fire of God’s Spirit burn worldwide without a fire being first lit within believers to go to the world? No one would choose persecution as their preferred motivation to relocate, but God worked in that terrible circumstance. What did the people do as they went? They took the gospel with them and proclaimed it to new hearers.
It is sometimes only through hindsight that we see God’s hand at work in ways we fail to recognize during trials. We may now look back at unexpected job losses, challenging relationships, changed plans, financial hardships, and other unforeseen and unwanted events and genuinely thank God for how he worked things out. Only a sovereign God can orchestrate life that way.
God constantly works in his children’s lives, even when we don’t immediately recognize it. This is one reason we should praise him in dark times. He is shaping us into the people he wants us to be.
Reflect on past events that were difficult and unwanted at the time. How are you now grateful for some of them because of the positive ways God worked through them?