Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV
Stuck on the couch for three weeks with coughing and fatigue. Missing special activities. Sleepless nights. None of it fulfilled my holiday plans.
However, as I read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 a different purpose unfolded. Looking back on the frustration of my extended isolation, I understood that God used my trials for good.
While I snuggled on my couch, a pile of books kept me company. One after another I devoured them as important messages filled my head.
A few were feel good novels which I rapidly read. But most delved into important matters and touched my heart.
A friend’s book, Where No Roads Go by Carin LeRoy, took me to the jungles of Papua New Guinea where she and her family ministered for thirteen years. The constant struggles they faced made my temporary illness seem insignificant. I thought of missionaries all over the world who face dangers, loneliness and heartbreak as they follow God’s calling.
Then I read A Stubborn Hope by Jeanne DeTellis, who served many years as a missionary with her family in Haiti. Extreme challenges faced them but they also felt the call of God for the impoverished of that country.
Tortured for Christ the Complete Story by Richard Wurmbrand graphically detailed the horrors he and his wife faced during years of imprisonment. They never renounced their faith but continued to share the Gospel and began Voice of the Martyrs that continues to assist persecuted Christians around the world.
Each additional book I read about persecuted Christians helped me see the agony they faced but also the joy in following God’s plan. Some of them were released but many gave their lives for God.
A book about teen immigrants, First Crossing edited by Donald Gallo, gave me a perspective on the difficulties of entering a different culture. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper was about a girl with cerebral palsy which helped me understand living with a condition that most people don’t understand.
As soon as I finished one book, I began another one.
Christian stations kept me informed as I watched several pastors, learned more about ministries, Israel, and our Jewish roots.
My daily devotional time lengthened since I had nowhere to go. I read more of the Bible as I started reading through my Chronological Bible again and studied Scriptures along with daily devotional readings. I hungered for more of the Bible and prayed more often. With fewer distractions, I listened to the Holy Spirit more intently.
Books on religion also gave me insight. I read The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel as my mind absorbed information from many scholars. My list of books continues to grow.
At times, I longed to be with people and resume normal activities.
But today, God revealed to me that I have been on a three- week spiritual retreat. What a magnificent new year’s gift!
As I reflect on what I have learned and experienced, I pray I will be more bold in my faith, pray for guidance daily and become more like Jesus.
Loving Father, thank you for slowing me down so I can know You better. Show me each day what Your plan is for me.