This was a hard section of Scripture to tackle in a devotional in which I usually try to encourage and uplift. A plan to kill and serious commitment to do so by a group of people willing to make significant personal sacrifice doesn't leave a great deal of space for encouragement. But as I've dwelt on this passage, and what might be gleaned from it, I was reminded that this part of Paul's story is just that–a part. Were it the whole of Paul's story, it would be grim and bleak indeed. But this is not the whole of the story.
These days in which Paul's life was being plotted against, he was no less called by God. Paul was no less a child of God. God was no less God. It is so easy for me to lose sight of these realities when the going is tough. Granted, I don't know that there's ever been a plot to kill me, but there have been hard days, challenging seasons, and painful weeks. In those times, the sense can be that those seasons won't ever end–that this will be my reality forever. The bigger picture can fade away, and the immediate reality can threaten to overtake all of the things I know and believe in the more comfortable times.
In these hard and scary moments, days, weeks, or seasons, I must cling to God in the way that Paul did through this time. Paul did not waiver or hide when his life was threatened. He continued living out the calling God gave him, speaking, testifying, and sharing the Gospel. This required a considerable amount of certainty and faith in the goodness and character of God, which no doubt came in part from his life-altering experience on the road to Damascus.
A step back and a look at the bigger picture of our lives, or the lives of those around us reminds us of the times when we have experienced God in life-transforming ways so that we can remember and cling to these experiences during the difficult times. Our God is faithful and unchanging; the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.