It’s no surprise that I see just about everything in life through the lens of storytelling. I’m a writer. That’s kind of my job. I’m constantly looking at the story of things. When I listen to music in the car, I’m dreaming up new story ideas. When I take a walk by the lake, I dream up fantastic things that could happen to set a new tale in motion. And when I look at my past, I look at it as a story arc. Where am I in the story and where am I going?
I know I’m not alone in this. Sure, maybe we don’t all approach life in cinematic or literary terms, but everyone is acutely aware of the story they are living. You see it in the way we plan for the future and hope for bigger and better things. Nevermind how readily we share stories from our lives like a highlight reel. God planted a love of stories in our hearts and that love runs deep. That was no mistake. It’s just one more connecting thread between him and us. We strive for our perfect dreamed up stories, but I don’t have to tell you how well that works out.
For all our dreaming, planning, and hoping, we still live in a world with heartbreak, disappointment, and failure. In this particular instance, I’m not talking about heartbreaks, disappointments, and failures of our own making, but those moments when it feels like life sucker punches you in the gut. Those moments life slugs you when you were just minding your own business or about to accomplish something big. Because here’s the reality that you may already know all too well:
Your story is going to go wrong.
There isn’t a single story out there, no matter how cheerful the “once upon a time”, that’s immune to the twist of fate that allows hardship and tragedy into the story. It’s coming for you (if it hasn’t come already).
You lose your dream job. Your house burns down. You go through the worst breakup imaginable. You get in a car accident. You lose someone you couldn’t live without. Someone betrays you. You lose a limb. There’s going to be a part in your story when everything seems like it’s gone so horribly it can’t possibly be undone. For some of you, that moment’s already here. And for some of you, that moment’s happened more than once. The questions are desperate and earnest. How could things ever be fixed? How are you ever going to get out of this mess? How could anything be salvaged from this wreckage? How can you save your dreams from everything that’s tearing them apart?
The bad news? You can’t.
You simply can’t do it. The things that tear into our lives, death, heartbreak, loss, evil, are so much bigger than us. These things don’t need our permission to storm into our lives. We can fight them all we want, and we absolutely should, but tactically speaking the odds aren’t exactly great. We’re just single humans standing against powerful forces that have taken down some of the most famous contemporaries of our world.
And it hurts. Oh, it hurts so much to feel like your story is falling down around your ears. It’s enough to make anyone panic and search the dust around them for the broken ruined pieces of the dreams they’d imagined for their life.
The good news? Help is on the way.
Your story doesn’t have to end with your searching through the dust for dreams you’ll never recover or getting beaten to a pulp by your worst enemies. God, that loving, generous, powerful, fear-inspiring creator, didn’t invent the concept of story just to make sure they ended in heartbreak. He wants more for us, and he intends to see we get it.
I’m reminded of some of my all-time favorite moments in the stories I love. Those moments when just as all hope seems lost, someone arrives to join the fight and turn the tide. Moments like Rohan arriving at the Pelannor fields, Meg coming back for Charles Wallace, Hiccup finding his way back to Toothless, and Aslan rising again from the Stone Table. Moments like Jesus rising again after three days.
All of these stories got to a point that leaves the viewer or reader wondering how things could possibly go right again, just like we do with our own. We ache with the familiarity of the whole thing and see ourselves in the desperations of the heroes. We’re not just watching their struggle, we’re feeling it as our own. But something always happens to save the day. Someone always comes to the rescue, to fix everything that’s gone wrong, rally the troops, and urge everyone on to victory.
The story God’s telling is no different. He saw beings he created locked in a losing battle and said no. He was not going to let the story end that way, and he asked his son to conduct the greatest rescue mission the world has ever seen. That story also seemed like it was all going horribly wrong until a certain stone rolled away from a certain tomb.
And your story? It exists in the same world as Jesus’ triumph. It’s part of that story. He didn’t save you then just to watch you drown in defeat now. That’s not his way. You were created for so much more than defeat. In Christ, you are no different from the book and movie characters you’ve grown up loving. The story will be rescued. And I know. It’s hard to believe that in the middle of it all, but it doesn’t stop it from being true.
Your story is not over.
Your dreams may be in the dust, and you may be wondering how everything could possibly be put right, but that doesn’t mean your story is over. This is just that moment of trial that makes the triumph all the sweeter. It will try to break you, but its victory is by no means guaranteed. God, the creator of all stories, doesn’t want yours to end in tragedy any more than you do. If he could find a way to offer redemption to all humanity, I feel absolutely confident that he can pull your story out of despair and into glorious light.
So if your story is falling down around you and you’re wondering how things could ever go right again, get ready. Rohan’s close, Aslan’s waking, and someone’s about to check the empty tomb. There’s more hope written into your story than you could ever fathom.