“They shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium.” (Acts 13:51)

When Paul and Barnabas arrived in Pisidian Antioch, they followed their usual custom and went first to the town’s synagogue. There, the “children of the family of Abraham” listened attentively to Paul’s preach­ing about Jesus. Some became believers, while others invited him back to explain further. However, some of the Jewish leaders managed to turn many of their people against the apostles. Paul and Barnabas saw this as an opportunity to bring the good news to Gentiles, many of whom came to believe.

When further persecution got the apostles expelled from the region, they wasted no time on recrimina­tions or regrets. They simply “shook the dust from their feet” and moved on, concluding that God was calling them to evangelize elsewhere. And as they had come to expect, they discovered that the Holy Spirit had gone before them, preparing other people’s hearts to receive the good news of new life in Jesus.

When we encounter opposition, we often wind up with mud cling­ing to our feet. Trying to understand what went wrong, we revisit our words and actions over and over again, wishing we had handled things differently. Or we blame someone else, opening the door to hostility or resentment. Perhaps we conclude that this person didn’t deserve our loving efforts in the first place. This kind of over-analysis can lead to a frightened paralysis, in which we don’t risk any more trouble.

It’s fine to try to analyze what went wrong and to take responsibility for anything we could have done better. This is especially important when we are dealing with people who are close to us. But sometimes, like Paul, we will discover that our seeming failure marks not only the end of our work in one sphere but also God’s invitation to move on to the next task that is part of his plan for us. When that happens, let’s commend the past situation to the mercy of God and joyfully seek the Holy Spirit, asking him to show us where the risen Jesus is inviting us to follow him next.

“Jesus, thank you for making me your coworker. I lay my fears and failures at your feet, asking you for the grace to see where your love would lead me next.”

Psalm 98:1-4; John 14:7-14