The rest were to get there on planks or on pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land in safety. (Acts 27: 44)
The miraculous story of Paul’s voyage to Rome, with its trials and triumphs, is a wonderful example of the light and the darkness through the journey of faith of human life. And the most remarkable part of the journey is the difficult and narrow places that are interspersed with God’s extraordinary providence and intervention.
It is a common misconception that the Christian’s walk of faith is strewn with flowers and that when God intervenes in the lives of His people, He does so in such a wonderful way as to always lift us out of our difficult surroundings. In actual fact, however, the real experience is quite the opposite. And the message of the Bible is one of alternating trials and triumphs in the lives of “a great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12: 1), everyone from Abel to the last martyr.
Paul, more than anyone else, is an example of how much a child of God can suffer without being defeated or broken in spirit. Because of his testimony given in Damascus, he was hunted down by persecutors and forced to flee for his life. Yet we see no heavenly chariot, amid lightning bolts of fire, coming to rescue the holy apostle from the hands of his enemies. God instead worked a simple way of escape for Paul: “His followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall” (Acts 9: 25). Yes, he was in an old clothes basket, like a bundle of laundry or groceries. The servant of the Lord Jesus Christ was lowered from a window over the wall of Damascus, and in a humble way escaped the hatred of his foes.
Later we find him languishing for months in lonely dungeons, telling of his “sleepless nights and hunger” (2 Cor. 6: 5), of being deserted by friends, and of his brutal, humiliating beatings. And even after God promised to deliver him, we see him left for days to toss upon a stormy sea and compelled to protect a treacherous sailor. And finally, once his deliverance comes, it is not by way of some heavenly ship sailing from the skies to rescue this illustrious prisoner. Nor is there an angel who comes walking on the water to still the raging sea. There is no supernatural sign at all of surpassing greatness being carried out, for one man is required to grab a piece of the mast to survive, another a floating timber, another a small fragment of the shipwreck, and yet another is forced to swim for his life.
In this account, we also find God’s pattern for our own lives. It is meant to be good news to those who live in this everyday world in ordinary surroundings and who face thousands of ordinary situations, which must be met in completely ordinary ways.
God’s promises and His providence do not lift us from the world of common sense and everyday trials, for it is through these very things that our faith is perfected. And it is in this world that God loves to interweave the golden threads of His love with the twists and turns of our common, everyday experiences.
~from Hard Places in the Way of Faith
Cowman, L. B. E.; Cowman, L. B. E.; Reimann, Jim; Reimann, Jim (2008-09-09). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (pp. 321-322). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.