No matter what you’ve heard in the past, there really are some things that we can guarantee in life beyond merely “death and taxes.”
When my grandson Jakob is at my house when I’m doing laundry, I can guarantee he’ll remind me, “Did you clean the lint drawer, Nama?”
If it’s grandkids’ movie night at our house and we’re looking for a good one to watch, I can guarantee 3 year old Ethan will ask for “Polar Express.”
Once spring finally arrives and the air turns pleasantly warm, I can guarantee I’ll start the day on the front porch with my coffee and my Bible, watching the sun break through the trees into our little canyon.
On the other hand, should we wake to fresh snow in late March, I can guarantee that somebody on Facebook will immediately express exasperation.
I thought of this again several days ago when I woke to fresh snow, and felt the irritation of waking to the white stuff in late March. But my annoyance was short lived. As I looked out the window from my warm, comfortable home, hot coffee in hand, complaining that there was snow on the ground outside in March, a picture I’d seen on the news rushed into my mind– Japanese parents huddled in the falling snow and cold just days before as they painstakingly sorted through the ruins of their devastated home, desperately searching for missing family members. And I felt ashamed, truly ashamed of myself.
In confronting my selfish annoyance, I realized there’s another thing I can guarantee. I can guarantee that no matter how miserable or intense the adversities of life are that I have experienced, there is always someone else who has gone through infinitely worse than I have. These days, in evangelical Christian circles these are called “stories” and there’s a multitude of truly difficult ones.
Everybody has a story. I certainly do. But the huge problem with most of us fixating on “our story” happens when we become so introspective, we don’t see those around us who are truly suffering. We erroneously place ourselves in the center of our own story, yet fail to understand that we really aren’t the main idea. To some degree or other, everybody suffers. Even in the most difficult of stories, in reality, our part of the drama is one of many, many chapters, woven together into the much larger, ultimate Story. It’s His Story– that of Jesus Christ, written for His glory and His purpose. We have the great privilege and the honor of being part of it. Seeing God as the main character in the Story does not lessen the grief, but it assuredly carries us through it and we’re better in the end.
When we’re caught up in our own drama (be it great or small), especially as we only see ourselves as being in the main role, inevitably we become the victim, the hero, or the ‘star.’ Should that happen, we become so self-absorbed that we feel victimized and behave accordingly– in bitterness, unforgiveness and anger. Yet I can guarantee that no matter how terrible or difficult or unfair your story might be, others have experienced the same thing, and there is always someone whose story is so much, much worse.
Incredibly, so many whose stories are far more devastating than those that I have experienced have come through it with greater peace and greater confidence in God’s amazing grace. They are the ones who understood– or discovered along the way– that ultimately, it wasn’t about them, but about Him.
The amazing thing is that every one of our stories– even the worst, most devastating ones– can have significant meaning and purpose, but only when we understand that it’s written in the greater context of Jesus Christ- His Story.
From now on, the story of the Japanese people suffering unbelievably after being hit with an earthquake, followed by a tsunami, followed by the radiation from damaged nuclear plants, will forever be a significant part of “History”– of His Story. Right now, we cannot imagine what God’s reasons are, but we do know that He is Sovereignly working all things after the counsel of His Will. Somehow, God’s glory will be revealed in this. I believe that eventually we will hear some amazing “stories” about the Japanese disaster.
The fact that we all have a story is not really very unusual, and many of our stories are frankly so small in light of other truly incredible ones. For too many of us, it’s too easy to fixate on our own situation, blinded or uncaring about what’s going on around us in the larger picture. But whether great or small, how we regard our own story and let it affect our lives makes all the difference in the world! Jerry Sittser, author of A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss wrote, “It is not the experience itself that becomes the defining moment of our lives…but how we respond to it that matters.” It isn’t what happens to us that matters as much as what happens in us because of it.
Without believing that there is a much greater story that we are a part of, all of life’s “stories” would not even make sense. And yet within the context of the much greater Story in which we become lost to the glory of Jesus Christ at the center, we can be assured that whatever comes our way is ultimately of great meaning and purpose. All of it. Only then can something even as disasterous as Japan’s tragedy make sense.
I can guarantee it.
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