We had an awful weekend. It discouraged us. Sometimes it just feels as if life is a series of struggle and heartbreak, and we get weary. I asked God for encouragement, and it came, and my spirit was strengthened.
Several things this weekend caused me to ponder many things that God has been teaching–and reteaching–me over the years. I had planned to write about some of my thoughts, and I still hope to write about them in the next few days. However, first I want to write about something else. It actually goes along with my other thoughts.
I sometimes feel that my life is full of suffering–and I have gone through some really difficult things. But the truth is that MANY people are suffering in very deep ways that break my heart. I’m not the only one who endures suffering. I have friends who are suffering from serious diseases, friends who are single Moms trying to raise kids, friends who have experienced abuse, friends who have faced homelessness, friends who have been unable to find work, friends who risk losing their homes, and on and on.
I was encouraged by the following thought today, and I want to share it for all those who are suffering.
EJ, JJ, and I love stories. We love when people tell us their stories, and we love stories in books and movies. One element in every story is a period of crisis or conflict. Often in that period, the main character–the hero–appears to be soundly defeated by the circumstances or by an enemy.
A good example of this can be found in the Lord of the Rings movies. Often the people in this story were surrounded by an innumerable hoard of demonous orcs who, Aragorn said, was bred for the sole purpose of destroying the world of men. People despaired. There was no hope.
That is the crisis of the story, but that is not the end of the story. No matter how hopeless the situation appears during the crisis, the end of the story is different. There is victory at the end, not defeat. The hero wins. The enemy is defeated. The world is saved.
Sometimes I remind suffering friends–and myself–that they are in the middle of their story. No, they are in the middle of the greatest, most exciting, most romantic story ever: God’s story. His story. They are at a point of crisis, and it appears that all is lost, they have been defeated, the enemy has won, there is no hope.
But appearances are deceiving.
Those who walk with Christ are not defeated, although it might sometimes seem so. Look at this:
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Cor. 4:8-9)
For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance. (Ps. 66:10-11)
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Peter 5:10)
If you are overwhelmed with suffering and pain, and it feels like all is lost, remember that you are in the middle of the story, not the end. You are at the point of crisis, not yet the point of victory. Be reassured: I have read the end of The Book. The King wins, the enemy is defeated, the world is saved, and those of us who trust Him win also. We are more than conquerors.
1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. (Rev. 21:1-7)