Sometimes trouble doesn’t want to let go…
I’ve never been shipwrecked, but I watched a lot of Gilligan’s Island when I was young. As far as I could tell, being shipwrecked was delightful. I couldn’t figure out why they kept trying to leave the island, and I kind of understood why Gilligan kept foiling their rescue plans.
Turns out, being shipwrecked is not as fun as they made it out to be.
Paul, falsely accused, left a Jerusalem prison and boarded a ship headed for Rome. After 14 days of storms and violent seas, the passengers were forced to abandon the ship and swim for their lives in the stormy ocean, ending up on the island of Malta.
It was cold and the castaways and natives were gathering wood to keep a fire going. Paul was doing his share, carrying a load of wood to the fire, but as he put the wood into the flames, a viper hidden in the sticks latched his fangs onto Paul’s hand.
Paul’s journey went from prison, to a storm, to the dangers of the ocean, to being bitten by a venomous snake. That’s a long string of trouble.
Acts 28:4 says the viper, “…latched onto Paul’s hand with its fangs.” Latched on means it’s fastened there, it’s hooked there. It’s locked on and doesn’t plan to let go.
Sometimes trouble seems to latch on and doesn’t seem inclined to let go. Paul was doing everything right. He was trusting God. He was gathering firewood. He did nothing to deserve an imprisonment and a ship wreck. He certainly didn’t deserve a viper latched onto his hand, but there it was. Life can be that way. Sometimes we do nothing to deserve trouble latching on to us, but there it is.
Here’s what Paul did about his trouble—he shook it off. He shook the snake off into the fire. The snake didn’t choose to let go. The snake didn’t apologize. No, Paul had to deliberately shake him off. With that viper hanging from his hand and viper venom burning through his body, Paul shook it off into the fire and he went on about his business.
Friend, maybe it’s time to shake the snake off and go on about our business. We may need to to shake off abandonment, discouragement, betrayal, fear, pain, or anger. We may need to shake off a situation we’ve been stuck in for too long. Our next step may be to shake it off.
Paul went through some stuff and we will, too. We will face opposition. We will encounter troubles. But God always has a plan. God’s plan turned Paul’s snakebite into a revival. The imprisonment, the storm, the shipwreck, and the snake may have been meant to harm Paul, but God used all of it for good. And God will do the very same thing for us.
Dear God, replace my fear with faith. Replace my pain with peace. Help me walk through my troubles as an example of what it means to serve the God most high. Let me reflect your love and glory to everyone I meet. In Jesus’s name, amen.