“His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured.” (Acts 28:8-9)
As I read the scriptures, I try to put my feet into the shoes of the people I come across. I can’t imagine what it was like for these 250+ people to finally see land. They had been pummeled for more than 2 weeks by a divinely directed storm. God faithfully protected all who were aboard, and finally, they all ended up shipwrecked on an unfamiliar island. Even Paul, although he received directions from God via an angel, had to be utterly amazed at God’s gracious providence in allowing all of these people to survive the storm.
Now on land, they began to meet some of the inhabitants of the island. While collecting wood for the fire, Paul was bitten by a viper on the hand. When the islanders witnessed this, they were certain Paul was evil and this was a god’s way of inflicting justice on him. But, miraculously, nothing happened to Paul. He was unharmed by the poisonous bite. Seeing that, the islanders began to think that Paul, rather than being an evil man, must be like a god. We are told what Paul told them, but he must have clarified their understanding. He must have introduced them to God Himself and the message of the Gospel. In response, a leader on the island brought Paul to his sick father and, through Paul, God healed the man. The people began to bring many who were sick to Paul and they were all healed.
So, you’d think arriving on a island in one piece after the most horrific storm you’ve ever been through would be enough of a view of God’s gracious plan. But in God’s mind there was so much more. There were people on this island who God wanted to touch with His love and grace. He used a snake bite (not what Paul would have chosen) to be the bridge used to bring healing of body and soul to people who would not have otherwise been touched with God’s love. There is no way Paul could have said after all that, “I knew what God was going to do.” Like us, he would have had to say, “Who can comprehend the plans of God?”
What about your life and mine? What does God have planned? I don’t know. But I am certain of one thing: it is beyond our ability to imagine and comprehend.