Have you ever felt as though nothing you did turned out right? Did you ever feel as though, no matter how hard you tried, your efforts failed to bring the rewards you deserved? Despite your best efforts to help others, do you end up being insulted or wounded in some way? If so, you’re not alone. You may have felt, as the old saying goes, “snake bit”.
This saying applies both literally and figuratively to the Apostle Paul. As he traveled to spread the Gospel, Paul experienced a litany of troubles – floggings, beatings, stonings, imprisonment, bandits, shipwreck, hunger, thirst, and more (2 Corinthians 11:23-29). In Acts Chapter 28, we find Paul shipwrecked and trying to do a good deed. However, instead of appreciation or sympathy, the locals ridiculed his misfortune. Such unfairness occurs frequently, where others belittle us for our troubles, but God uses Paul to show how He can turn misfortune into good.
Ironically, Paul and his fellow survivors had been welcomed by the local people, but the situation soured. A fire was burning to warm those who were wet and cold from the sea water and the rain, but the fire dwindled in size. Paul, ever industrious and helpful, set himself to the task of gathering sticks to reinvigorate the blaze. He loved to assist others and it was his character to put himself below others to be a servant to those in need, even if he were needy himself.
In his efforts, Paul grasped a pile of brushwood. As he embraced the bundle, a dormant viper lay unknown and waiting among the sticks. Awakened and driven out by the heat of the flames, the viper lashed out and fastened on Paul’s hand. Now Paul was truly snake bit, and it seemed he could not or would not immediately throw the snake off his hand. Rather, he let it hang there for all to see, a shocking and scary symbol of his misfortune.
Witnessing Paul’s dilemma, one would expect the people to rush to his aid and attend to him in his emergency. Quite the opposite, they concluded Paul must be a murderer and because he had shed innocent blood, he was receiving the just punishment he deserved. The people thought divine vengeance was being served.
This is a classic case of adding insult to injury! Have you ever been in such a situation? It is common for others to interpret our misfortunes as something we deserve and then chastise us. They are quick to imply fault in us and remind us how we are ultimately responsible for the troubles that befall us. Instead of coming to our aid, they impute guilt and shy away from us. We are often shunned for misfortunes not of our own doing.
One could argue Paul should have taken more care as he gathered the wood. It is no secret that snakes and venomous creatures often lie among sticks and twigs. There is even an old adage, “Whoever tears out a hedge, a snake will bite him”. Thus, we should always exercise the utmost care when we engage in tasks or endeavors known to carry significant risks. Owever, it does not mean we should refrain from doing good deeds as Paul endeavored to do, even as he was a prisoner.
In Paul’s case, God would use his injury to demonstrate His power. Paul had faith in God and suffered no additional physical harm. In fact, God restored Paul so completely that the people mistook Paul for a god.
Are your children rebelling despite your best efforts and leadership? Is your business suffering an extended period of hardship and bad luck even though you are putting in extra effort? Are your relationships strained and difficult due to recent problems? Are feeling “snake bit”? Paul’s story shows us it is normal for God to allow misfortune to enter our lives, even the lives of His most loyal servants such as Paul.
God shows us He sometimes brings troubles to get our attention and to help us grow. He shows us there is always a blessing in the hurt. He is a God of restoration and will always restore your spirit, if not your physical being as well. Our trials bring us to a better place where we realize that being snake bit was a blessing instead of an insult. The next time you feel snake bit, just remember it may be God’s way of bringing you to a better place.
A servant of Jesus Christ
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