When hard times and trials hit, we are often told to press on in faith and be devoted to God. What does that mean in our day-to-day lives, and how can we keep our devotion to Christ as we suffer?
One step to answering these kinds of questions is to look back at the lives of Christians who have walked this journey before us. As many know, March 17th is the day of celebration for St. Patrick. During his life, Saint Patrick transformed Ireland through his firm faith and evangelism. Today, if we look back on his life and journey with Christ, we can learn valuable lessons of prevailing faith.
At the age of sixteen, some Irish pirates captured Saint Patrick and took him to Ireland, where he would be a slave for six years until he escaped. Despite this time of bondage, Patrick spent his time praying and his faith grew deeper. He would later view his enslavement as God testing his faith. Six years into his captivity, he writes of an angel appearing to him saying, “You have fasted well. Very soon you will return to your native country,” and also telling him of a ship leaving Ireland (Klein).
Patrick went on a journey of two hundred miles in order to escape his enslavement. The captain of the ship refused him at first, but after he began to pray, a sailor changed the mind of the captain (Klein). Patrick trusted that it was God protecting him and allowing him to board that ship.
God’s faithfulness continued even when the ship docked and its crew were without food walking in the wilderness and chastising Patrick for his faith. Patrick said to them, “Turn in faith with all your hearts to the Lord my God, because nothing is impossible for him,” and as they were led in a prayer God provided food through a stampede of pigs that crossed the path.
Eventually, Patrick would go back to his homeland of Britain and later to France where he studied and entered the priesthood. Though time had passed since being in Ireland, he did not forget the vision God gave him of converting the Irish into people passionate for Christ. “Throughout his missionary work, Patrick supported church officials, created councils, founded monasteries and organized Ireland into dioceses [districts under the pastoral care of a bishop in the Christian Church].” He is also famously known for the analogy of the three leaf clover to the Trinity. Overall, his missionary work impacted the whole of Ireland as well as other parts of Europe.
One can clearly see the hand of God at work in this saint’s life. His faith was strong, and despite the suffering he had faced in Ireland, he still went back to preach the gospel to them. He remembered the call God had put on his life and he followed through.
Patrick’s humble spirit and life shows that no matter the situation, God uses those he calls in spite of their circumstances. He would refer to himself as an “unlearned sinner” and did not believe himself to be unique, yet God helped him grow his faith and spread his beliefs throughout Ireland.
During his early childhood, Patrick lived with a wealthy family, yet his faith grew when he was put into a time of calamity. His faith grew deeper as he prayed and devoted time to God amid suffering.
What can we learn from him?
We need to continue growing in our faith and devotion to God even in the midst of tragedy and pain. Galatians 2:20 is a perfect reminder of why we strengthen our faith, and it states, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (ESV).
Practical ways to strengthen our faith amid hard times include: reading books of the Bible like Job, praying for a deeper trust in God’s will, being still and silent in God’s presence, or looking at testimonies of Christians who have gone through trials. Though the situations we are in and the pain we experience can be bleak, we should always remember that God’s thoughts and plans are above ours. He knows our situations and how He will use them to bring about good things. Also, we are not meant to walk this journey alone, and the resources Christians in the past have left behind are sources we can use to learn and grow.
So, I encourage you all to sow seeds in your garden of faith this spring, and be encouraged by those who have walked this walk before you.