“Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!”
PSALM 107:17-22 (ESV)
God loves a great story as much as we do. He’s a writer at heart, and after all, we bear His image. Drama is simply in our DNA. Vividly realized heroes, detestable villains, harrowing situations, stunning twists – we recognize these as hallmarks of great storytelling. They fill our favorite novels, movies, and shows, but before this, they filled the drama of Scripture. The great narrative of redemption that God weaves from Genesis to Revelation is full of its own tragic figures, heart wrenching romance, and massive battles.
An appreciation for drama was breathed into us from the very beginning. This is why great stories resonate so deeply with us. Finish a book that had you flying anxiously through its pages or see a film that moved you to tears, and you can’t wait to talk about it. Experiences like these tap into the very center of how God designed us. In His wisdom and grace, He gave each of us two things that every storyteller needs: longing and imagination.
A great writer knows how to ask great questions. How do I deal with loneliness? What makes me afraid? To what family do I belong? She knows the same longings that drive her characters also consume her readers. Start from this searching – for deep things like love and security and community – and the story can become relatable, even invitational. Middle Earth doesn’t seem so far away when we see ourselves in Frodo’s fear. When Harry Potter’s wonder is ours too, Hogwarts might as well be next door. Beneath every fantasy is a character searching for the same things we are.
This is why we are willing to suspend disbelief when we read a good book or watch a great movie. We want to see ourselves in the hero’s journey, transcending circumstances and rising victoriously over them. We want likable heroes who defeat vulnerable enemies.
God doesn’t play by these rules. His characters, the ones we’re supposed to relate to, rise from the ranks of the unlikable, the cast aside, the refuse. They are poor, uneducated, violent, sexually immoral. They have no powers or resources. And their enemies, who have no apparent weaknesses, don’t fear them. By all accounts, these characters seem helpless, hopeless… worthless. At least to us.
Like any great writer, God still wants you to see yourself in His story, but if that’s the goal, His choices seem strange. We want to find ourselves in the costume with the powers. We want to save the day. But reality confronts us with a difficult truth: we don’t get to be the hero. Those questions good writers ask? They’re still asking them because we don’t have the answers. If we could become the hero, fix our financial messes or reconcile our broken relationships or heal our weary bodies, surely we would have by now!
God writes His story with our questions and our struggles in mind. A diverse cast of scoundrels, united in desperation, trying to make a way out and finding only dead ends – this is not the stuff from which heroes are made. But while God writes His story for our reality and our present circumstances, it’s not where He writes His ending. There’s still a climax and a resolution coming. There’s still a hero here. There’s still hope.
The hero of our story hears our cries, sees our pain, and comes to our rescue. He takes the blows we can’t absorb, carries the burden we can’t shoulder, and wins the battle we can’t fight. Though we are unworthy, rejected, dead, we become valued, chosen, redeemed. Who but God could pick the worst and lead them to glory? Who but God could write this story?
God relieve me today of a desire to control my story. Remind me I am not the hero I need. Bring to my mind how dark and hopeless life was before You, so that I might cherish the light I walk with You in now. When I cried out, You heard me. You rescued me. Remind me today that You are the same God. You still hear my cry. You still come running. AMEN.
We need saving grace every day, but our flesh prefers a life without want. Don’t let busyness or planning take away from the story God tells. You still need a hero. Consider all the moments you have to lean on God today. Each one is a chance to see Him glorified.