We all love a good story. We are especially drawn to stories of triumph because they can be particularly moving, inspiring, and full of hope. A good, triumphant conclusion leaves us satisfied, while those without can be unfulfilling.
As I had the opportunity to listen to various people share a bit of their story in a large-group setting this weekend, I was touched to tears as I heard one triumphant story after another. I was moved, inspired, and filled with hope. Each one shared out of a heart that had struggled, but had experienced, or was experiencing, triumph over the circumstances.
But as I searched my heart, I also realized that some of my tears were tears of mourning. I was mourning my own story.
When Judson was sick, we were begging God to miraculously heal our son. We were envisioning the triumphant story that would flow from his restoration here on earth. We were pleading with God for a story that would move and inspire faith, a story full of hope. It would have been a story where I could have stood up in that room this weekend, holding and hugging my son as a reflection of God’s power and victory in this world.
But that isn’t my story. My story is not one of triumph. Instead, God chose for us a story of loss. He gave us a story where if I were stand up and share, all I have to hold before people is my broken heart. My story is not one that causes people to spontaneously erupt in applause and celebrate—it is not inviting or appealing. On the contrary, it is a story that triggers tears and sadness. It’s a story that can even make people turn their face away, leave the room, or want to run the other direction.
Yet God is in both kinds of stories.
God is present in pain. Period. God is moving, inspiring, and full of hope in the pain, not simply after being set free from it. The hope of our story lies in the suffering, not a triumphal emergence from it.
Of course we have other personal stories of triumph , which are such a tremendous gift, but God’s shaping story for our lives is simply about clinging to him as we navigate lifelong loss. It’s not glamorous and doesn’t hold a lot of allure, but it’s also not a story in isolation. There are so many stories of perseverance in pain when the triumph we all long for is elusive. But God is at work and worthy of praise.
Now I would be remiss not to mention that there will absolutely be triumph to our story—the most triumphant climax imaginable—but it won’t occur in this lifetime. Our triumph requires a life of patient endurance. And part of my grief is to mourn the loss of earthly triumph. But part of my healing is to recognize the hope of God’s sustaining grace, no matter how the story ends.