I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos...Revelation 1:9
Isle of Patmos. John. Banished. Suffering. Alone. And yet not alone: The great I AM, who is and who was and who is to come, was with him. This was the darkest time of John's life and yet amidst this dark and abandoned place, he was not abandoned. Far from it. Rather, on that Isle of Exile, God came to him in comfort and revelation.
This seemed like the end for John...his days of fruitfulness were over...or were they? Was not God in this forsaken place? Was not his ministry to God? Had he not always lived for an audience of One? This had not changed. His heart was ever surrendered to the Lover of his soul...as relationship with the Righteous One abounded, so, too, would fruit abound.
Despite this harsh existence, there was Love. There was purpose from the One that loved him - and His purpose is the only actuality. The One who works and wills to His good pleasure was present with John on that Isle of Exile.
In ostracism, John may have felt that he was being put "on the shelf", that the days of being used of God were over. Yet, in this lonely place, John was given the privilege of coming to know God in a way that few could even fathom. At a time of seeming unproductivity, John was given the Revelation of Jesus Christ as King of Kings.
I know nothing of physical exile or imprisonment, but my metaphorical exile has been illness. There have been many moments when, due to illness, I felt "out of service". But the faithfulness and love of God has dispelled that deception. For truly, I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus my Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
I have come to see that times of exile, metaphoric though they may be, are marked by love and purpose. In these seasons of seeming unproductivity, the activity of the One who works and wills to His good pleasure has not ceased. He weaves His wonder through every part of my days, gently calling me to trust the work of His hand. Through these pivotal time periods of my life, I have been reminded that relationship with God is the dearest treasure, that living for an audience of One is a priceless privilege.
The seasons of exile in a believer's life can have multi-faceted purposes: the birth of a new vision, preparation, a greater understanding of truth or even much needed rest...but whatever the appointment, these periods of life are first and foremost about sitting at the feet of our Master and learning more of Him. If we will seize the occasion, these seasons will have further reaching results than we could ever foresee.
Now I look for the revelation in my Isles of Illness. I embrace these periods of my life as an opportunity to learn more of God -- I seek His face, relish His Word, talk to Him about everything, and I am filled with awe that He brought me to the Isles of Illness so that I could know Him more.