Photo Credit: Mikaela Hamilton
Since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.
– 2 Thessalonians 1:6 – 7
For our light and momentary affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.
– 2 Corinthians 4:17
I’m not trying to be pessimistic, but from my vantage point our world seems pretty broken. I realize there are good days when things go well, but there are also quite a few hard days when everything seems broken.
As a pastor, I often get a front row seat to see our world’s brokenness because typically no one calls his or her pastor to talk about how great their life is going. Instead, pastors tend to get called when people get sick, when the marriage is failing, when the house is foreclosing, or when the depression lingers. In other words people call their pastor when they come face to face with the reality that their life isn’t working out the way they planned.
Honestly these situations overwhelm me but they don’t sink me. The main reason my soul stays steady in these moments is that I know our whole story. You see our story isn’t that our world is perfect or perfecting itself. If this were the case, I think I would feel like I had been ripped off and that I was missing out on something. But our story isn’t that life on this planet is pain-free. Quite the contrary. Our story is that our world is broken. Things are not the way they should be. People get sick and stuff hits the fan. This was not God’s intent, but it is our reality because we stopped listening to God back in Genesis 3.
Now all this is pretty bleak, until you remember that our story isn’t over. We are, in a very real sense, in the middle of the story, where terrible things still happen. But at the end of our story, God says Jesus comes back and grants us relief. In other words one day the darkness we face will give way to a better day.
Now image that you and I hit the eject button in the middle of our story because life isn’t all that we thought it should be. Does that help anything or anyone? Not at all.
To make my point, imagine Frodo from The Lord of the Rings quite half way through his story. Would that have helped the people of Middle Earth? Nope.
Now Frodo didn’t know the end of his story, but we know the end of our story. We know that God is coming back for us. We know he will heal and restore. We know he will undo all that sin has destroyed. So we can hold on, not because today is a good day, but because a great tomorrow is coming.
Courage in this life is in many ways simply a function of knowing your whole story. So here are three things I want you to remember about your story.
1. You are in the middle of your story. Do you see what this means? You should expect to see both victory and defeat, advances and reverses. So when things fall apart, remind yourself that this is in fact normative for you and for the people around you.
2. God is with you in every moment of your story. You may not feel his presence. I get that. There are lots of moments when I don’t feel him either. But he promised to be with us until the end and since it’s not the end, he’s at our side.
3. The end of your story is great. One day Jesus will come back. One day he will wipe away the tears from your eyes. One day suffering will end. One day sin will be defeated. So hold on till that great day by reminding yourself that if your life isn’t all that you want it to be, God isn’t done with your story.
Okay. Let’s go back to Lord of the Rings and wrap things up. Do you remember Sam? He’s the hobbit that helped Frodo hold on. Do you remember how Sam encouraged Frodo when Frodo wanted to quit in the middle of the story? I’ll close with Sam’s words, because I think Jesus would say something similar to us.
It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo…the ones that really mattered…full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. They meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, I do understand. I know now, that folks in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to a greater day.
I know life get hard, so remember your in the middle of the story, God is with you, and the end is going to be great. Blessings to you, until we get to the end.