It was one of those Floridian days that felt like a tropical paradise beckoned you in your very backyard. The breeze was lightly flowing, causing the palm frawns to flutter in the trees, while the glowing sun’s rays were pleasantly diffused by the foliage surrounding us. My husband and I swung the two seater swing to and fro, feeling like our present circumstances were far from the beauty depicted around us.
Life felt very different than how I always thought life to be- a roller-coaster with ups downs, curves, and twists. Life felt more like constant dips down, plundering deeper into tunnels that were dark with no sense of familiarity.
“But maybe that’s how life is right now,” I posed to my husband. “Maybe life is supposed to be miserable right now so we can actually be catapulted to do something when we are able. Maybe this is just training grounds for our mission.”
It’s words I hate to utter, but they fit so many of us. I don’t know about you, but I would rather have the mission without the misery. Yet, so many people had to endure gaping obstacles which acted as a catalyst to the mission God had for them.
Some had to become disabled to help develop a world-wide ministry for the crippled.
Some had to become imprisoned to reform the inhumane prisons of yesterday.
John Howard was grieving the loss of his young wife who died in London when Howard was only in his late twenties. Although bereft with emotions most of us can only imagine, he heard the cry for help from a nation grieving over their own tragedy- a natural disaster that still stands as one of the most devastating earthquakes to date. Pleas from survivors of the disaster in Portugal surfaced with Howard knowing he must help.
The year was 1775. The only way he could get to Portugal was through a ship, a ship he boarded that was subsequently captured by the French. With England and France warring against each other, this man who was on a mission to save lives, a man who freshly lost a life that was so precious to him- was placed in a prison.
The prison system in Europe was infamous for its dank, void of light harshness. Howard was now able to birth the words into reality as the prison guards offered him only scant amounts of food and water. Year after year ticked by. I’m sure Howard felt abandoned, even as a professing Christian. I’m sure he also felt confused as to why his plans to save the grieving were derailed.
You don’t expect to be interrupted when you’re doing something good.
You expect to be intercepted by the hand of God when you’re doing something bad- like running away from His plans, like Jonah and the fish.
I can only begin to imagine what thought bubbles were popping up alongside Howard’s head. I do know he was released after years of misery. He then used the miserable situation he endured to catapult it into a change for Europe as he stood before Parliament and other governing officials to incite for prison reform. Nations succumbed to his request and ushered forth laws to improve prisons. A statue made in his likeness was one of the first to be erected at St. Paul’s Church. 1
I don’t think it would be too far stretching to say these officials would not have taken him as seriously if he hadn’t had such a strong eyewitness account to the personal horrors behind bars.
Howard’s misery launched him into his ministry. I don’t know about you, but I would love for God to drop a comfortable mission from heaven into my life. But sometimes our calling is illuminated to us in the dark unfamiliar tunnels. Sometimes the dark comes before the light.
1. Zacharias, Ravi K. “Your Calling Matters.” The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us Through the Events of Our Lives. 1st ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2007. 56-58. Print.
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