When we read the Bible, we see that God uses everything in life for His purposes; nothing is wasted. This is particularly evident in the life of Joseph, when we see how even misfortune (being sold into slavery by his brothers, being unjustly accused of impropriety by Potiphar, languishing in prison when the one he had helped forgot all about him) is unable to stop God’s plans to save Israel being fulfilled through his interventions. Everything Joseph went through prepared him for the moment when he was required to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams and become responsible for the administration of food storage and distribution in Egypt.
Throughout the Bible, we see God at work in preparation when perhaps we feel nothing much is going on. Moses spent forty years as a shepherd in Midian and must have often wondered what his early life in the royal palace in Egypt had all been for, but when the right time came, God used his previous connections and the lessons he had learnt since then to mould him into the leader who would see God’s people freed from slavery. David’s time as a shepherd came in extremely useful when there was a giant of a Pharisee to defeat; unfazed by the lion or bear which preyed on his flocks, he was confident in God that this was an enemy who could be defeated (unlike the rest of the Israelites who saw only the size of their enemy.)
In the New Testament, we see how God takes fishermen and makes them ‘fishers of men’ and how he was able to use Paul’s background to make him into a formidable apostle. Tom Wright comments that “Paul was, in short, well qualified for the work God had for him: a Jew of the strictest pedigree and highest biblical training; a Greek speaker and thinker thoroughly at home with the world of ancient philosophy and rhetoric; and a Roman citizen – who knew his rights under the law and was determined to use them as necessary.” (Tom Wright, ‘Acts For Everyone Pt 2’, P 163) Just as God used the historical events at play in the world in bringing forth His Son at that particular ‘set’ time (Gal 4:4), so too he used all that Paul had been through to equip him for the work to which he was subsequently called.
God uses everything for good in our lives, even the events and circumstances which we would happily erase from our history. We can, therefore, be confident even when our lives are not apparently ‘on track’, when we feel that nothing is happening and we are in the wilderness. Who we are, what we go through and what we become are all in God’s hands, and He doesn’t make mistakes.