In 1298, 3 years after returning from his 24-year-long adventure to the interior of China (17 years of which was spent in Kublai Khan’s court) Marco Polo was captured by the Genoese and imprisoned for a year.
Intellect From the Confined
Though frustrating for Polo, this imprisonment ultimately gave Medieval Europe The Description of the World or The Travels of Marco Polo. For during his incarceration he met the writer Rustichello, who insisted on the recording of Marco’s annuls. Without this period of imprisonment, the accounts of Kublai Khan, the description of Beijing, and the unknown world of the Orient would have been otherwise lost to the Christian world.
Then, there was Jean Victor Poncelet. He served as a lieutenant in Napoleon’s corps of engineers during France’s invasion of Russia in 1812. During the Battle of Krasnoy, Poncelet received severe wounds and abandonment as if dead. Somehow he lived and managed to recover – even though he marched hundreds of miles in the depths of winter to a Russian prison. In these hopeless conditions, which lasted for a year and a half, Poncelet meditated and devised theories on projective geometry. From these theories born in prison, he published a book, The Application and Analysis of Geometry. This book is widely recognized as the foundation of modern geometry.
Hope From the Confined
Additionally, Paul the apostle, during his imprisonments, received opportunities to share the gospel. These opportunities were with governors, kings, the Praetorian Guard, and even the Emperor Nero himself. None of this would have been possible while he was a free man. During his imprisonment he also recorded sacred Scripture for the benefit of millions of Christians to come – his “prison letters” to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and to Philemon. Paul summed it up by saying: “my circumstances (of imprisonment) have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:12) In fact, Paul refused to call himself a prisoner of Rome. Instead he referred to himself simply as “the Prisoner of Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3:1; 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:8; Philemon 1, 9).
No one desires to be “confined,” “slowed down,” or “arrested” by circumstances. We cherish our mobility and independence. But should sickness, family responsibilities, deployment or anything else (even incarceration) bring us to a screeching halt – perhaps it’s for a good reason.
Maybe God is slowing us down to ultimately make us immensely more productive.
The Scripture says, “By repentance and rest you will be saved; in quietness and trust you will find strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)
Dear Lord, when circumstances or sickness slow me down, please help me to have the sense to use those times wisely and to receive the blessing You wish to give me. Amen.