I've been asked this one question a lot of times this year. A lot. From a lot of hurting people. I've even wondered the word myself.
"Why didn't God come through? Why didn't He show up in time?" they've asked me. And while I have felt woefully limited in knowing how to answer, it seemed that time and again the Holy Spirit put this one thing in my mouth that was to be my response:
"Don't close the book in the middle of the story. We can't cut this off yet and decide what we're going to decide about whether or not God came through...Essentially,
"Do not say *THE END* in the middle of a story God is still writing."
If we did this while reading Scripture, it would look like this:
Lazarus was sick, and his sisters Martha and Mary begged Jesus to come and heal him. Jesus stayed where He was a few more days, and when He finally arrived where the sick man lay, Lazarus had already been dead for 4 days. Jesus didn't show up on time. Lazarus was dead. THE END.
Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, falsely accused of rape and imprisoned, and then forgotten there by a friend who said he would make mention of Joseph to his boss. So that was it. Joseph was betrayed, accused, and forgotten, and God allowed it all. THE END.
Except NOT THE END! Not even! Because Lazarus was raised from death back into life--and God was glorified. Joseph was more than vindicated--and even saved many lives through the gift of dream interpretation God gave him. Even restored to his family? You bet--and in a story of beautiful grace and mercy.
The danger of closing the book mid-story is that we wrongly conclude things about the strength, the might, the ability, the willingness, and the heart of God. I believe this is at the root of why some walk away from God; They have, at some point, said THE END and decided He just didn't come through. Lives, families, ministries are even ripped apart in the midst of people cutting off the story too early, concluding that the One who made them, wrote their very names into existence, never bothered to come through on something that mattered to them.
This tension exists at some point for everyone--no one is immune. But here's the thing: When I'm mid-story in Scripture and thinking, "Oh, no--Lazarus is dead! Why didn't Jesus show up in time?" -- no big deal. Because I am just one page turn away from seeing how He very much did come through. But real life doesn't afford us that luxury. While we're camped out in the smack dab middle of the devastation, wondering WHY He didn't show up to sustain that pregnancy or heal that illness or save that business from failing or keep that marriage from falling apart, it's horrible to not just be a page-turn away from the answer. And so we live within the tension. It can be excruciating.
It's almost as though you and I decide how much time we will give God to come through on the matter before we close the book and declare it's THE END. Maybe it's a year, maybe longer, maybe less. But we, who block out time into weeks, months, and years, serve an eternal God. He is working through the ages, bringing honor to the ones who walk in uprightness, bringing justice to the most grossly unjust situations, satisfying our desires with good things, making a way where there seems to be no cotton-pickin' way, bringing redemption to the most broken of stories.
I'm tempted to say THE END sometimes. Like, even now, sometimes. Which is why I have to look into truth. I have to open up my Bible and see just how dire so many situations were, how bad things looked, how unresponsive God even seemed....before He showed His love and might by moving the most intimidating mountains. And I have to keep a journal of how God has come through for me, for our family, for our friends, and in Scripture. It's nothing fancy, but in big letters on the first page it says simply, "What God Has Done." On the hardest of days I have to pull that out and just read until I am confident again in the truth that my God always...always....ALWAYS comes through.
He who began a good work is always faithful to carry it on to completion. Just look at Hannah. Moses. Joshua. Saul....
Please, don't close the book in the middle of your story.
*Photo credit: Old Thoughts by Bloto Angeles