EVERYTHING happens in our LIVES for a ‘REASON’: "For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave--a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord." (Philemon 1:15-16)
During the first century, having slaves in homes were common-place in most of the wealthy households in Israel. These slaves were usually bought from an auction block by the highest bidder, who would purchase a slave to be a lifelong investment to be used as a household/field helper for life. A wealthy Christian by the name of Philemon had a slave called Onesimus, who one day stole money from his coffers and ran away from his home hoping for freedom. However, he got more freedom than he bargained for when he met Apostle Paul in a Roman prison and became a believer of Jesus Christ, who made him truly free (John 8:36).
Someone has once said that the purpose of Christianity is not to help a person escape his past but to face it and to rise above it. Through his influence, Apostle Paul convinced Onesimus that he needs to go back to Philemon and rectify the error that he has committed. Along with Onesimus, Paul sent along a short hand-written note that is available to us as ‘Paul’s epistle to Philemon’. In the above passage in this epistle, Paul suggests that God may have permitted the events that had taken place to result in greater good, and he urged Philemon to view them in that light. God’s deeper providence was at work, and with Onesimus now belonging to Christ, there is a new and eternal relationship between the slave and his master. Philemon should now regard Onesimus not as a slave but as a brother in Christ and treat him lovingly!
Looking at the bigger picture, it appears that it was God’s plan that Onesimus would run away due to the eternal benefits of his salvation directly resulting from his action. Not only will Onesimus be useful on the human level, he will be useful for the work of the Lord eventually. Thus, the marvelous providence of God can be seen with Onesimus stealing money and absconding from his master’s home that finally resulted in his salvation experience. Now he returns to Philemon to spend the rest of his life on this earth along with the happy prospect of spending eternity in heaven with his master Philemon and all other believers. So, as Paul inferred in his letter, God in His providence did turn this evil episode around for good!
Like Paul, we should reflect on the circumstances of our lives as well. We should think carefully about what God may be trying to show us or teach us through the unusual or, the unexpected or, even the undesirable events that we encounter in our lives. This will help us bring God and His Word into our understanding of life. We can then look beyond the adverse circumstances of the moment and see God working His plan through all the events of our lives. This will eventually teach us to incorporate our pain into God's divine plan, as the patriarch Joseph did towards the end of his life (see Genesis 45:5, 7). Let us never forget that everything happens in life for a reason!
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)