March 17th is the day that the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick, is honored. A native of Britain, he was captured in the late fourth century A.D. by Irish pirates at the age of sixteen and enslaved for six years in Ireland. During that time he committed himself to Christianity. He escaped and returned to his family in Britain where, a few years later, he had a vision of the Irish calling him to return and minister to them.
Rather than resenting his years as a slave to the Irish, Patrick used the time as a shepherd to contemplate what it meant to know Christ, and what it meant to know God’s forgiveness. He left Britain as an unconverted teenager but returned as a believer in Christ. Without those six years of suffering, who knows how different Patrick’s life might have been? And who knows how many Irish might never have heard the Gospel through Patrick’s ministry in Ireland in the fifth century?
Times of trouble in life, be they brief or extended, call for a change in perspective. Instead of asking, “Why is this happening to me?” we must ask, “What is God doing in my life? What does He want me to learn from this situation?”