“God is using your present circumstances to make you more useful for later roles in his unfolding story.” -Lou Giglio
Stories have always been a big part of my life. From the time I was a toddler, my mom read me book after book. By four or five, I was reading on my own, and there were many seasons growing up where I simply wouldn’t leave the house without a book accompanying me. The reason was quite simple: I loved the stories. When I read The Chronicles of Narnia, I saw myself as Susan Pevensie. When I read Anne of Green Gables, it was me, who smashed the slate over Gilbert Blythe’s head. When I read Emma, I fell head over heels for Knightley right along with Emma. And when I read The Lord of the Rings, I too was traveling with the Fellowship on the quest to save Middle Earth. Okay, so maybe I have a pretty active imagination…
As I read all of these, though, I came to the conclusion that obviously my life would be a tale as fabulous and perfect as the ones in my favorite novels. I’d slay any dragon with ease, always beat the bad guys, fall in love with my very own Mr. Darcy, and ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after.
Flash forward a few years, and I found myself bogged down in…[horror of horrors] the real world. The dragons aren’t always so easy to defeat. Sometimes, things are hard. And here I am, practically an adult, and I definitely don’t have it all together like I pictured my heroine role models did. In the midst of this, I caught myself complaining, “This wasn’t the deal, Lord. This isn’t my novel-worthy adventure. In fact,this is a hot mess!”
But then, somewhere along the way lately, God has helped me to recognize a few things:
- A messy middle is necessary for the best endings. The stories-in movies and books alike–that have us cheering for our hero/heroines most passionately are the ones that have the deepest struggles. Think of The Hunger Games Trilogy. The reason we root for Katniss, the reason we’re tasting victory with her, the reason we care about her success, is that she faced hard times; she sacrificed, but she never gave in. Think about the most influential Christians in history, and you’ll find the same thing. William Wilberforce failed to abolish the English slave trade 9 times over 17 years! Talk about a seeming mess…but then, that 18th year, parliament abolished slave trade. “Happily-ever-after” endings take time!
- The hero/heroine doesn’t get to know there even is a happily-ever-after ahead. It strikes me that Frodo did not know he would succeed in his quest to destroy the ring. What if J.R.R. Tolkien brought in a character in the first chapter who told Frodo everything that would happen if he went to destroy the ring? Would he even have gone? Even if he did go, wouldn’t his approach to everything have been different? If Frodo knew he’d succeed, how could he have the drive to do what he must to succeed? Those in the story DON’T SEE THE BIG PICTURE. It’s the same with us. We do not see our full story. We see the here and now. Fortunately, though, we’ve got someone who does see it all.
- The Author has ultimate control, and nothing can change that. I’ve heard the illustration that God is the “Author” of our stories, and I love that comparison. Just like the author of a book is the only one who knows and understands everything about his characters and his plot, God is the only one who knows everything about each and every one of us. He created us with free will, yes–but He already knows every choice we’ll make. He already has plans for each one of us and wants to use us to fulfill them. He is the author of story. Realizing that and holding onto this perspective will make a huge difference in our lives. Jeremiah 29:11 says “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.'” So, yes, we are going to have hard times. Yeah, life may not make sense during some seasons…and there might be times when we can’t even imagine a way that our situation and struggles will be turned around or used for good. But fortunately, our divine Author is greater than us and has plans far greater than our imaginations.
As Elisabeth Elliot said once, “Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ashes.”