I have been fascinated with stories for as long as I can remember. The stories that my dad and uncles would tell around the campfire about their crazy adventures. My Aunt Betty’s stories about missionaries in foreign countries. All the stories I would read in books my elderly pen pal mailed to me each month. They captured my attention, made themselves a home somewhere in my soul, and helped shape me into the person I am today.
What I came to understand about the best stories was that they unfolded over a long period of time. I could laugh until my sides hurt at the stories about running into skunks while crawling in dark corners under the house. I was intrigued by miraculous stories where all the coincidences seemed to line up just right for the unimaginable to take place. I cried at stories of heartache and loss. But the stories that stuck with me the most, the ones kept me up at night staring at the ceiling and asking big questions of God, were the ones about a person becoming part of something much bigger than themselves and leaving an impact that rippled across the generations that followed them. And those stories never happened in a moment or even a season. They stretched out over years and decades.
Back then I focused on the life transformation part of the story rather than the amount of time it took. It is hard to grasp the concept of a decade long journey when you are barely that many years alive on the planet. Not until I was much older did I begin to realize how integrally connected patience and perseverance are to the development of a good plot.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5
Each of us are living out a story. Whether it tells of bold adventure, heart stopping risks, and trust in the face of fear or whether it’s pages turn with a predictable, cookie-cutter, easily forgettable plot line is up to us. What makes a story worth living, worth re-telling, worth modeling for others isn’t about what happens in the good times but what takes place in the worst of times.
We all want to quit at some point.
Inside the pages of every great marriage is an excerpt where one or both people wanted to throw in the towel. Tucked within every tale of triumph and success is the part where the hero wonders if they should have ever started down this road. If you look carefully, every single story of parenting through hard seasons, discovering the call of God, walking away from an addiction, and getting financially stable all carry moments where someone had to decide whether they were going to walk away or dig deeper into grace.
My favorite phrase in the verses above is “this hope will not lead to disappointment.”
Let that soak into your soul for a moment. This hope. It will NOT lead to disappointment. I feel a thousand pounds fall off my shoulders as I read those words.
You know that marriage you are ready to cash out on. That child you almost want to give up on. The dream that feels like will never materialize. Freedom that doesn’t feel attainable. A purpose that seems will never be fulfilled.
Don’t do it.
None of us knows what the next turn in the road will reveal. But you do know the God who goes before you. It might not feel like enough but it is. Hebrews 11 recounts the stories of person after person who pressed through opposition, discouragement, and fear to cross the finish line of their story. How were they able to do it? Take a look:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Hebrews 12:1-2
The key to patience and perseverance is Jesus. He lived a story that has been told and re-told for two thousand years to people across the entire globe. More books have been written about Him than any other person who has ever lived. Millions of people are following His lead and letting His story bleed into theirs. Everything you need to stay engaged in the story He is writing through your life can be found in Him.
Every great story requires time to develop. Stretch out those weary muscles and settle in for the journey because it isn’t over until it’s over. Trust the God who started this good work in you to also complete it.
This is going to be a really great story.