Friday, February 01, 2013

The End of the Story

I love a good suspense movie, where you are on the edge of your seat, wondering what is going to happen, trying to piece together the details and figure out what took place. It is fun, in the comfort of a familiar location, to watch a story play out. I do not, however, enjoy experiencing the story. I want to know what the end is before beginning an adventure. It makes it easier, and much less scary that way.

Life has a way of not showing its hand, however, leaving very deserving people without an answer or knowing what to expect in the coming hours or days. And, in spite of our view of history (knowing the outcome from the beginning), it has always been that way.

Such has been my contemplation lately, as I've considered great Bible heroes. Men like Abraham, Joseph, David, Jeremiah, Daniel, or those men in the fiery furnace. Women like Sarah, Rahab, Esther, even Ruth, and especially Mary; they didn't know what was going to happen when their adventures began. And yet, they walked with great faith, trusting the God they served to handle the final details.

It is so much easier to look back on what God has done in the past than it is to look forward to what He promises to do in the future. Yet, the same God who was so faithful to provide and care for heroes of old provides and cares for us today. Their struggles were no easier, their fears no less overwhelming, their frustrations and disappointments no less real. Yet it is easy to discount their struggles because we are so far removed from them, and we know how the story ended. We read of Abraham's experience in a matter of verses, easily forgetting that he waited 25 years for Isaac's arrival. Twenty-five years. That is more than half my lifetime. I've never waited that long for anything!! And David had been crowned king of Israel, but spent years running from King Saul. He so feared God that when he had the opportunity to eliminate the usurper who refused to yield the throne, he would not do it, trusting God to keep His promise.

And Mary, when she submitted to the Lord in carrying Jesus, must have known that she would face difficulty. She understood her culture and knew Scripture well enough to recognize that she was literally laying her life in God's hands, because if God didn't come through for her, she would quickly find herself under a pile of stones, dead. Yet, without hesitation, she responded willingly to God's call.  And we applaud her for doing so.

But let's make this personal. What is God calling you to?  Is He asking you to take a step of faith and trust Him with your future?  Is He asking you to start something, or to leave something, or maybe (like Abraham) is He asking you to sacrifice something more precious to you than life?  We can't see the end of our stories. We don't know if God will miraculously intervene to avert tragedy, or if He will help us pick up the pieces after our world falls apart. And that is a very difficult position to be in. It can be easy to question God's goodness, character, and faithfulness; very easy, because I have done exactly that.

We can't see the end of the story, and we can look around to see where God has not behaved in a way that gives us confidence. We can think of people He didn't heal, accidents He didn't prevent, tragedies He didn't avert. And we experience fear. Yet, John said in his first epistle that those who fear don't understand love, because perfect love casts out fear. He goes on to say that those who fear have not been perfected in love. It doesn't really make sense to me yet, but maybe because I still experience fear, so I haven't been perfected in love. What I do know, after years of experience (including some great heartaches and disappointments) is that God is good and I can trust Him. Recently, after a particularly difficult day when I was emotionally drained and physically exhausted, I was ready to quit. Life was too hard, the struggles too much,  when (as an act of sheer desperation) I cried out to God "Though You slay me, yet will I trust You." Nothing changed, no miraculous provision came to make my life easy, but suddenly it wasn't so hard to take the next step. Turning my eyes to Jesus in my desperation transformed my day, or what was left of it. And I could praise God.

Job was the first person in recorded history to have uttered those words, but he most definitely won't be the last. I know I will repeat that phrase again, perhaps even through tears. With a confidence that I can't explain, I know that God loves me and He can be trusted. Maybe I am one step closer to overcoming fear and that desperate desire to know the end of the story, one step closer to leaving it all in the hands of the One who does.

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