When Everything Falls to Pieces

Something's up.

Acts 27:39-44 (ESV)

Now when it was day, they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned if possible to run the ship ashore. So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that tied the rudders. Then hoisting the foresail to the wind they made for the beach. But striking a reef, they ran the vessel aground. The bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was being broken up by the surf. The soldiers' plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape. But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.

Notice the intricate way that God protects Paul and his shipmates from harm – even when it looks like He’s endangering them.

Now when it was day, they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach. What luck! Safe harbor at last. The wonderful angelic prophesy concluded with Paul saying, “But we must run aground on some island.” Looks like everything’s going to work out just fine; all they have to do is run the ship ashore.

But that wasn’t the grand entrance God had in mind for these guys. So, striking a reef, they ran the vessel aground. The ship had survived just fine when it was at sea and free to bob up and down. But now, with the bow stuck on the reef the ship can’t move and the stern was being broken up by the surf.

They end up swimming ashore (presumably without any armor or other heavy weapons) or floating in on pieces of the ship. They’re a pitiful bunch if there ever was one. As we’ll see next, the islanders take pity on them and give them a warm welcome.

Had a platoon of armed Roman soldiers just landed and hit the beach, who knows what would have happened next.

What can we do besides praise the mighty way He works? Things that look terrible at first often prove to be blessings (or even miracles). Has this happened to you? Probably more than you know.

When something doesn’t play out the way we wish, our disappointment often keeps us from spending time thinking about how we might be wrong. Introspection can be a great blessing.

What unintended consequences might you have missed? Might some “bad” outcome you experienced actually be better than the alternative?

(Note: this makes more sense in cases of disappointment, not grief. Seeing God’s blessings in major tragedies is exceptional. Better to start with something more manageable.)

Of course, if you’ve already seen a silver lining turn into something more, you are blessed. You can extend this blessing by spending some time considering what the clues were early on.

The purpose of all this is worship. As we grow in our ability to perceive God’s majestic ways, reverence naturally springs forth.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:


Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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