3 Lessons We Can Learn from the Life of St. Patrick
I love St. Patrick!
First of all, he has such a great name.
Second, he had an amazing story!
Born British, Patrick had a comfortable life as a child. Raised in a Christian family, he didn't really know God himself. He was, perhaps, headed the way of a prodigal when misfortune struck.
Irish pirates (can you imagine?) sacked his hometown and kidnapped Patrick.
Forced into slavery, he labored for six long years as a shepherd, living with the sheep out in the elements. It was a dark, dreary, and lonely time.
Underfed, nearly naked, and half-soaked from the damp climate; time must have drug on.
Like so many saints, Patrick's time of suffering did something wonderful in his soul. The forced humility brought him to a place of surrender, remembering the Lord he learned about as a child.
Amidst his terrible captivity, Patrick found freedom as he came to know Christ as a friend.
Lesson #1: God is with us in our pain.
Indeed, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed (Psalm 34:18).” Though we may not always see it at the time, God is near to us in our darkest hour. In fact, He often uses our times of suffering to bring us closer to Him.
Patrick grew close to God. He spent his days reciting prayers over and over. He chatted with God, like a friend, around the evening campfire.
Then, one day, just as suddenly as tragedy had struck, Providence brought a breakthrough. Patrick heard a voice that told him his time in bondage was over, that he was going home soon, and that he needed to get going.
God told him that his ship would be waiting for him and directed him on where to go to find it.
A series of miraculous events followed as God led him to the coast and to the boat that would carry him back to Britain. He returned home to his family and dedicated his life to God by joining the clergy.
Later, God called Patrick back to Ireland through a dream. He became a missionary, returning to the land that once held him in bondage.
Though his time in Ireland wasn't easy, he truly set the land on fire for Christ. Conversions, baptisms and revival followed in his wake.
A few years later, the Church in Ireland was thriving so much that it sent missionaries back to Britain! The very seas that once ferried pirates across, now carried the Good News ashore.
Lesson #2: Our greatest impact often comes in same the areas where we once in bondage.
God comforts us in times of sorrow. And we who have lived through great trials have a unique ability to minister to others. We can shine a light for those who are going through the same kinds of challenges. Often, God “comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us (2 Corinthians 1:4).”
Patrick’s willingness to revisit the place where he was once held in bondage brought God's healing light to countless others. He changed the course of history.
Though his legacy is obscured by time, myth and legend, the truth of his impact endures.
Patrick lived an amazing life that was both epic and humble. He was a man who lived naturally supernatural. He labored with his hands to build churches, stone by stone. He also joined the halls of hallowed learning. He had spiritual showdowns with druids and pagans. He encountered God in mystical ways. He found freedom and purpose by following God’s voice and heeding the call he received in a dream.
Patrick learned to surround himself with Christ. No matter where he was, no matter what challenges he faced, he invoked the presence of God.
His famous prayer, “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” immortalizes these words:
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Lesson #3: We can live life surrounded by God’s presence.
Just like Patrick, when we know that God is with us, we can face the obstacles and dangers that life often brings. Knowing that God’s presence surrounds us, we can face the dark valley where the shadow of death looms. Like David and Patrick, we can say, “I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me (Psalm 23:4).”
And, even when we are afraid, we can still take small steps forward. Step by step we can develop a deep trust in God’s goodness.
I had a powerful encounter that came from praying St. Patrick’s Breastplate for a season in my life. The Lord showed me an image, “a vision” of what it looked like for Christ to surround me. This memory remains one of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my life (maybe I will tell you about it sometime).
It might be a powerful exercise for you to read it too!
But, more than that, I want to ask you to consider these questions:
1. What places has God brought you out of that you now have power to help transform for others?
2. What would you do if you truly believed that you Christ himself surrounds and protects you?
Blessings and happy St. Patrick’s Day!