“That same God is my God!” Have you too, whispered that in awe? God, who spoke myriads of galaxies into existence across unfathomable space, deigned to knit little me together in my mother’s little womb (Psalm 139:13) on this infinitesimal little speck called earth—what a startling disconnect! The One who spoke personally with Noah, Abraham, and Moses is not a legend. Nor is He a God for another time and space. The God whose words I read in the Bible is the same God to Whom I pray today. Just that any Being could be around and active that long is exhausting to think about. Our minds simply cannot contain Him. He is infinite. We are pitifully finite and cannot hope to ever understand Him, nor does He expect us to. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
The people mentioned in the Bible never dreamed that thousands of years later they would be featured in storybooks for children and preached about from pulpits as models of faith or a lack thereof. Though they didn’t know it, they were God’s main people, right? His principal actors. We are God’s people too, but kind of as an afterthought. We live in the epilogue. Our lives tell a story, God’s story.
Maybe there’s a better, more accurate way to think about this.
- God’s way of telling us about Himself in Scripture was largely by true stories in which He was the main character.
- Other characters in Bible stories were placed there because of their place in God’s big story, because of the special relationship they had with God, because their example was a means of teaching us who God is—not for their own fame and glory but for God’s alone.
- God did not become a “lesser god” at the close of the sixty-six book biblical canon. Our God today is the same incredibly powerful, omniscient, magnificent; holy God, possessing all the attributes He revealed throughout the Old and New Testaments, and using each generation to show Himself to mankind.
- God is still telling stories, not by adding to the closed canon of written Scripture but by writing Himself into our lives.
- “Lesser” characters who are not in Scripture, whether during Bible times or now, are not less important to God than the characters included in Scripture; it wasn’t about them and it wasn’t about us. They, and we, are vehicles for advancing the story about God.
What kind of story about Himself is God writing in your life? Think about how He is showing Himself to the people around you. Think about the privilege it is to convey His story to them through your life in such a way that they desire to discover Him in His Word.
The same adverse circumstances befall Christians and non-Christians. We lose our jobs, we get cancer, we struggle with infertility, we have marriage breakdowns. What should our life say if God is writing His story there? We can, like Job, accept life’s circumstances with the calm assurance that God is in control. “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10) That conveys a peace with which the world has no experience.
Our testimony can be, like the Apostle Paul’s, that it is God’s power that enables us to survive adversity. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (II Corinthians 4:7-10). Jesus bore our sins in His body; it is our privilege to share in His suffering in our earthly bodies (Philippians 3:10). The world rarely sees suffering as a privilege, unless along with the suffering comes some opportunity for personal gain or notoriety.
Is God enough for us in the difficult circumstances of material deprivation? People wonder how someone who lacks what is usually considered necessary for happiness can exude peace and joy. If you are experiencing financial hardship, don’t waste the opportunity to let God show Himself big in your life. The millionaire marvels at the joy experienced by the jobless, the homeless, those who to him seem hopeless.
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
In Personal Hurt
The world doesn’t understand forgiveness because the world doesn’t understand sin. Someone else’s offense against them brings out their self-righteous rage instead of acknowledgment of their own depravity. One of the best opportunities we will ever have to live the gospel will be when we demonstrate forgiveness for an extreme hurt, and explain that we cannot withhold forgiveness from a fellow sinner when it cost our holy God the death of His sinless Son to forgive our outrageous rebellion against Him. “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
There is a sad tendency today, especially among women, to become stuck in tragedies from their past. Perhaps a woman has been abused and has not been able to find the resolution she needs. Now the facts of her abuse and maybe even her quest for justice and retribution define her life. If she is a Christian, what is the God story that onlookers read in such a life? Does it square up with anything at all in the Bible?
The psalms are replete with lament, even appeals to God for justice and retribution. “You have seen, O Lord; be not silent! O Lord, be not far from me! Awake and rouse yourself for my vindication, for my cause, my God and my Lord! Vindicate me, O Lord, my God, according to your righteousness, and let them not rejoice over me!” (Psalm 35:22-24). This is not a public outcry. It is an intimate cry to the Lord. The outcome is left with God, and the psalmist returns to his confidence that the Lord will do what is right and good. God’s justice may or may not be wrought in a public way. “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord’” (Romans 12:9).
Like the psalmist, we should go to God with our broken hearts, our ravaged souls, our enraged and devastated psyches. Sometimes healing is a long time in coming. Sometimes professional involvement is needed. God can write a glory story in your life if you don’t try to wrestle the pen from Him. Actually, God will write a story no matter what you do; the difference will be what part He has in your story. Will you allow Him to lead you forward in victory, or will you prefer the role of perpetual victim?
Becoming victorious is far easier said than done. When deeply hurting, our spiritual lives often suffer. Here are some suggestions that may help:
- Soak up like a sponge as much of God’s Word as you can, simply by listening. A dry sponge doesn’t absorb much, but as soon as a sponge dampens, it is able to absorb more. You may not have the emotional and mental energy to engage in deep Bible study on your own, but this does not give you a pass to neglect intake of God’s Word. Let His Word wash over you during Sunday morning’s preaching. Find quality teaching on the radio or online. Listen to an audio Bible. Christ gave Himself for the church (and for the individuals in the church) so that she might be “cleansed…by the washing of water with the Word” (Ephesians 5:25-27). His Word can change your scalding tears to cool, soothing tears of cleansing from bitterness and pain.
- Immerse yourself in the Psalms. Live there. The Psalms are completely accessible to a hurting heart, with no commentary or cross-references or deep exegetical study needed. You will find your own emotions expressed right on the pages of Holy Scripture, and you will find that God wants to meet you there. What you are going through is not new to God; He does not condemn you in your struggle. He wants to be the “lifter of your head” (Psalm 3:3) whether your head is bowed in defeat, discouragement, shame, or battle fatigue.
The Bible I used during one of my hard times has two very worn sections; the epistles our pastor was preaching through, and the Psalms. These were my lifelines. This was the way God held my hand, lifted my head; became and remained the main character in my story. What will your story be?
Whether adversity, poverty, personal hurt, or some other drama, do you really want the role of the main character, the one who is garnering all the attention? This will happen if you are focused on yourself instead of on God. It will give more power to your circumstances and to other people than they deserve. God will be to you at best a stagehand, no longer the main character in your story. You will fail to see opportunities to turn your story to His glory.
Don’t let your story be indistinguishable from the world’s. Would your neighbors and co-workers like to get to know God based on what they read in your story today? What about your children? Does your life affirm the truths you are teaching them from the Bible, or does your life contradict those truths? Are Bible stories nothing but stories to you? Did the God of the stories retire once the canon was complete? The next time you open your Bible, rejoice that the God you will read about is your God, and that He is still writing stories today, then relinquish the pen.