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photo: sebastiansantanam8qnfs          graphic: Martha G. Brady

This post exposed some sadness and I wanted to “finish” it here. However, as I began writing, I realized that writing a happy post to balance out a gloomy one wasn’t really what was needed. I started putting up my links and listened to some of the links I was recommending.

Perfect stories in a broken world don’t exist except in fantasy. A story with no sadness, nothing tragic gives no contrast for us to enjoy the joy and ecstasy!

That was when I was reminded of the importance of looking at the story that is our life…including all of the story we have lived! Yes, we are placed in a broken world, a broken family and indeed, we are broken ourselves. But we also need to see the amazing redemption and blessing GOD has provided for us, no matter how broken that place where He put us seems from our vantage point.

A pristine story where nothing bad happens or nothing tragic happens, is dull and boring. No one wants to read it. Why? We need contrast to enjoy the joy and ecstasy that comes into our lives. Otherwise the characters are dull and boring…and so is the story!

We can’t find points with which to identify. People who have everything going well for them…or apparently do, are usually not people we are drawn to. Why? Because we don’t have much in common with them. The truth is, there are no such people. They live in fairy tales and fantasies. The people who try to look perfect, rarely are. The more I have gotten to know such people, I have found their lives are far from perfect. It is a sham they erect for a variety of reasons.

Having the courage to look at the painful places in the kind of depth Dan Allender recommends takes a dependence on GOD. Looking at our story, not to justify ourselves or make heroes of ourselves and our responses, but for the purpose finding truth, takes both courage and a community of honest people who love GOD and love each other.

Perfect stories don't exist except in fantasy. Stories with no sadness, give no contrast to enjoy the joy! Click To Tweet

It is often easier to gloss over the hard parts of the story superficially without asking questions that will help us see Jesus in places of darkness, personal failure, even unforgiveness. None of us really wants to go to those places. It can be easier just to have heroes and villains in the stories instead of looking honestly to see where flawed people have failed us even when they loved us too…and we will do the same. Putting on the band-aids of nice sounding spiritual words is much easier than asking hard questions about those dark memories or even memories we try to forget.

As I listened to Dan Allender’s podcasts on story, (#49-52) I realized how difficult it is not only to have the courage to look at our stories but also to listen in active ways to people struggling with their stories, in ways that are redemptive and hopeful as he describes. So much of our conversations can be superficial as we give the same old Bible verses for answers without listening compassionately to the story first. Dan gives a helpful paradigm for story in the podcast that is very thought-provoking.

GOD in His mercy, often puts us in a position to have to look at a part of our hard story…or someone else’s, with love and grace

A person dies, a physical ailment hits, a family tragedy happens, something happens that forces us to stop or change momentum. We can’t keep pretending anymore. The issues we kept trying to ignore, smack us in the face.

Whether it is as “small” as people we love taking advantage of us consistently or simply ignoring our wise advice and doing the opposite…then wanting us to rescue them. Or as large as an affair that everyone knows about, or an out of wedlock pregnancy that breaks our heart and changes our life as we help pick up the pieces.

Whatever happens to precipitate our awareness of the loss, pain or suffering, it is good for us in the long run. Of course, it never feels that way! It is like the doctor who diagnoses a disease that will kill us if it is not excised or treated. We hate hearing the news. It is awful! Often, the treatment is as bad as the disease. But after the treatment is done and we are healthy again, we look back and see that it was worth hearing the bad news. It was worth going through the awful treatment to have our health back.

Facing the sadness, darkness and pain in our lives with honesty is not easy. But it will open us up to Jesus in new ways…His healing, His comfort, His grace.

After the time when I started to honestly face painful parts of my life, I found ways GOD could comfort me that I was unable to be in touch with before when I was numb or in denial. If I didn’t honestly face pain and hurt, how could I know if GOD was there? I didn’t have the guts to be honest about the pain in the first place! I was too busy trying to put a happy face on life…fighting to ignore the dripping blood and agonizing pain from the wounds I was suffering. It wasn’t until chronic pain became so severe that I finally had to deal with the underlying emotional pain that was part of so much of it!

I found writers that spoke words I didn’t know how to verbalize…pointing me to Jesus in new ways

I began to enjoy writers like Joni Earickson Tada, Elisabeth Elliot, and Tara Barthel to name a few. I was able not to be undone by the uncomfortable questions of Dan Allender in many of his books. His backstory is here. And I found that writers who didn’t have all the answers in 10 easy steps were the ones that attracted me most! Searching for answers in GOD’s Word, in the stories of godly people, and as I listened to those from different life experiences…all taught me helpful truth to build on what I had learned already.

And those who pointed me to Jesus for solutions in concrete ways…they were the most help! I know that can be frustrating, as it was for me when I was younger. Go to Jesus? How? In what way? What does that even mean? The concreteness of their answers helped so much, but in the end, I realized they had sent me to Jesus!

He is the answer to hope for the future, for forgiveness that feels forgiven and thorough, for a source to be able to forgive when it seems impossible!

Coming to the end of ourselves is not a bad thing!

So as we come to the end of ourselves…whether it is in the middle of tragedy, an apparently small loss, chronic disease or major life disappointment. Whatever brings us to this point, it is good. When we come to the end of ourselves, we can start leaning on Jesus and His power. That is when we realize that is all we have left! But it is what we needed in the first place!

I don’t know how it will look on you. It often feels very scary on me. It’s often that feeling like you’re going to jump off a cliff and if He doesn’t catch you, you will die and crash on the rocks below. Yes, it feels awful! But watching Him work is very exciting. You can see Him work and even though it may look like you had something to do with it, you know in your gut that it was all HIM!

Yes, you may have led a small group or had a conversation, but if He hadn’t been the one giving you the words to say or bringing a question to your mind, nothing would have happened. And more basic? If He hadn’t been preparing the heart of the person, nothing would have happened…at all!

So as we come to the end of ourselves... Whatever brings us to this point, it is good. Click To Tweet

Ultimately, GOD is writing each of our stories for His glory. How many times, do you hear a piece of someone’s story that GOD has intervened in, and you realize He was there all along? During times of incredible darkness, He still intervened. He was there weeping. But He was working to intervene in a dark situation…to bring the Light of the Gospel!

…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 
for it is God who works in you,
both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Philippians 2:12b-13


 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you 
blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,
to the only God, our Savior,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority,
before all time
and now and forever. Amen.

 Jude 1:24-25
I know. This is incredibly long! It took me 2 weeks to write, rewrite and write again. I have no idea how to split it up. It’s all I will offer this week…except for Five Minute Friday. I hope you enjoy the links. They are my favorites.