Originally published Tuesday, 29 April 2014.
I read a fiction book on a recent vacation. It was a book I looked forward to reading because I enjoyed another book written by the same author. Yet as I read through it, I was disappointed. The story line was depressing. One horrible thing happened after another. I didn't see any hope for restoration or redemption.
I found myself editing it as I went along, thinking thoughts like, 'He shouldn't have added that.' 'It would have been better if he'd done this___.'
As a reader, I can only read one word at a time. I don't know where the author is going or his ultimate purpose. When a scene comes in that I don't like, I can only speculate as to why it is there. And unless I cheat and read the ending first, I won't know how all the chapters and scenes fit together until I get to the last page.
In many ways, I read my own life story the same way. I critique each chapter and wonder why the Author included it. Sometimes I mark up the pages and think I can send it back for editing. But it's already been published. "In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them" (Psalm 139:16). And unlike the fiction novels I read, I can't read on ahead in my own life's story.
The difference between the Author of my story and any other book that I read is that I know the Author personally. I know that he is good. I can trust him. And though I don't know the future, I do know the past. Scripture gives me the back story. I know how the world came to be, how sin was birthed in the Garden, and what God did about it. I've even been given glimpses of the future to come.
Over and over in the Old Testament, the Israelites were encouraged to follow their story. They were to look back at their exodus from slavery, God's provision in the wilderness, and his promises fulfilled in delivering them to the promised land. They celebrated this story each year in festivals and feasts. They taught this story to their children. Their prophets, priests, and kings reminded them of their story. When they faced heartache and trials, they reviewed their story together. They remembered God's faithfulness, his covenant keeping, and his love and mercy toward them.
"Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, you his servants, the descendants of Abraham, his chosen ones, the children of Jacob. He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth. He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac." Psalm 105:5-9
When we come to a page or chapter in our life that makes no sense, we need to follow The Story. Though we don't know what will happen tomorrow, we do know what happened in the past. Like the Israelites, we can follow the story of Creation, Fall, and Redemption.
When life isn't going right, when pain and grief surrounds us, it's because we know that things are not the way they should be. The story of Creation explains how God created everything good and perfect. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve enjoyed intimate communion with their Maker. Their relationship with each other was also filled with complete intimacy, honesty, love, joy, and peace. Feelings of shame and guilt were non-existent. The desire we have for completeness, wholeness, and peace are reminders that things are not as they should be.
When our heart cries out, "This isn't fair!" and when we ache with unfulfilled dreams and are weary from the pains of living in this world, we can look back to the Fall. The story of Adam and Eve in the garden, Satan's lies and their subsequent sin, explains how we got to where we are. All that was perfect and good was broken the day they desired to be like God and bit into the fruit's flesh. Sin and shame then entered the world. Ever since, each and every person is born a sinner. The curse of sin spread beyond humans, infecting the physical creation as well. Sickness and disease, hunger and famine, floods and violent storms, are all the result of that first sin.
In following the story, we can follow God's redemptive plan to save and restore us back to himself. Like the Israelites, we can remember our own exodus from slavery to sin, God's provision of a Savior, and his fulfilled promises through Jesus. From Genesis 3:15 to the book of Revelation, we have the story of Redemption laid out in rich detail. Every page unfolds God's glorious plan to rescue and redeem, culminating in the life, death, and resurrection of his Son. John's vision of the future in Revelation, gives us hope and glimpses of the glory that is yet to come.
As we follow the story of Creation, Fall, and Redemption, we remember that God is faithful. He keeps his promises; he fulfills his covenants. We can trust the story he is writing in our lives. And because we know the Author of our story and we trust his intentions toward us, we can watch the story of our lives unfold with wonder and awe. Even when we get to a scene that is confusing or seems out of place, we can remember, wait, and watch, knowing that the story line is moving forward to a beautiful and glorious end.
Not all books we read finish with happy endings. But unlike the fictional stories we read, our story will finish well. It is guaranteed to end in joy and gladness. Jesus made it so when he signed the manuscript with his own blood and cried out, "It is finished!"
And when our story in this life ends, another begins...