I had a forebear who came as a free settler to the penal colony of Hobart. Having braved ocean travel for weeks in a sailing boat, she was forced to swim to land when the boat foundered on rocks as it tried to navigate the entrance to Hobart harbour.
I can’t imagine how frightening that must have been, let alone preposterous, in a Victorian costume. In this day and age such an experience would have invited lengthy counselling for the associated trauma.
The apostle Paul writes that he was shipwrecked 3 times (2 Cor. 11:25) – all because he wouldn’t baulk at preaching the Gospel.
“I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!” (Phil 3:10-11).
Paul was prepared to pay any price that may be demanded of him in order to live forever with Jesus. He was so confident of his salvation through the grace of Jesus and he wanted to share that overwhelming good news with everyone he encountered.
Paul acknowledges that there would be traumatic episodes, fiery trials, severe suffering or even cruel death but he disregarded his own personal safety and well-being in order to have a part in the glorious and better life after the resurrection.
Despite Paul having gone through so many episodes of trauma and suffering, he wasn’t traumatised. In fact he was happy.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (James 1:2-3).
To be clear, let’s see exactly what Paul's “troubles of any kind” were.
“I ..have been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea.
I have travelled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not.
I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.”(2 Cor. 11:23-28).
So Paul survived unimaginable trials and suffering yet wrote some of the most positive messages in the New Testament. Just take a quick look at his letter to the Philippians, for example, and count how many times he used the words “rejoice” or “joy” -- even though he wrote that epistle from a prison cell.
The take-home out of all of this is that no matter how devastating a shipwreck we may face in this life, nothing can steal the joy we have from being in relationship with the God of the universe and being a part of His eternal plan with this world.
This wonderful message rings throughout the Bible:
“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” (Hab. 3:17-18).
All Bible quotes (unless otherwise noted) are from the NLT.