We love a good story. It is honestly how we were wired. As kids we want to hear stories either told to us or read to us constantly. As we grow up, we move beyond always having someone else telling us a story, and instead we either read the stories ourselves or we watch the stories on TV and in movies (which I guess in a sense is just a different way of having someone else tell us the story).
As adults our love of a good story doesn’t fade; either one that is told to us or one we read or one we watch. The methods of hearing stories will change over time based on our preferred method and our age, but the love of a good story still remains.
And as we all know, a good story involves conflict. There has to be an arch of some kind, where the character in the story is presented with conflict (or many conflicts) and must make decisions based on those conflicts. Without conflict, tough decisions, and changes the character has to deal with, a story would be pretty boring. It is sometimes even true that the more the conflict, the better the story.
This is not just true of stories we read or watch, but also true of stories we hear or watch lived out in real life. Hearing another person’s story about facing conflict and tough decisions, where they had to make decisions that forever changed the course of their life, and where they continued on with some semblance of strength, is always inspiring. Stories like that can make us stand up and cheer, they can renew our own resolve to keep on keeping on, and they can even make us start to cry (although we don’t always want to admit it).
Those are often the people we end up looking up to the most…real people who went through real problems and really came out on the other side.
However, how many of us want to have a story like that ourselves? How many of us want the conflict, tough decisions that change us and our lives, and the struggle of it all?
The reality is, those kind of stories are very cool to hear, but they are horrible to go through. And what we often forget when we listen to those stories is that we are only hearing the highlights, but the person who has the story had to live through every day, every hour, every minute of it. They had to feel every emotion, deal with every decision, and struggle through every change in their life that they probably didn’t want but couldn’t keep from happening.
We often get caught up in the awesomeness of the story when it’s being told, but fail to think of the details. And when we are faced with our own conflict and tough decisions, we tend to quickly want to cry out for someone to help us out of that situation immediately. Because no one likes to go through conflict and difficulty and unwanted life changes.
I love a good story. It’s one of the reasons I love the Old Testament in the Bible, because of the stories. I love to read and think about the stories of Job, Josiah, Joseph, Moses, Abraham, Hosea, and so many more. Incredible stories of men who were in the midst of crazy difficult situations, and yet who remained faithful and persevered through them.
Josiah grew up in a nation that walked away from God…so much so that the religious leaders had lost the Bible. The entire nation didn’t care about following God, and yet Josiah led them back to following God again.
2 Kings 23:25 says of Josiah – “Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him“. The Bible essentially calls Josiah one of a kind. WOW! What a thing to have said about you. But consider all he had to go through every day of his life in order for that to be said of him.
Joseph’s brothers hated him so much they almost killed him, but instead sold him as a slave. He worked hard and started getting recognized for his hard work by his master, until his master’s wife falsely accused him of attempted rape, so he was thrown in prison. There he worked hard and the prison guards took notice. He met someone in prison he helped, and when that person got out they promised to work to get him out…but forgot to for 2 years. He was final released and was put 2nd in command in Egypt to help with the coming famine. And then, his brothers showed up needing help from him. What a prime opportunity for some revenge, which I think we would say they had coming. But he shows them love and compassion (after messing with them for a little bit).
In Genesis 50:20 Joseph said to his brothers “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Despite all they did to him, he stayed focused on God and doing what was right in his life. Amazing!
I love stories like these…stories of men who endured hardship and remained faithful. And it’s not just stories in the Bible, but really anyone’s story who has been through pain, difficulty, rejection, loss…and who has chosen to keep their focus on God and do what is righteous in the midst of it all. Horatio Spafford’s story, for example, is one of my all time favorites! His story is the reason my favorite Hymn is “It Is Well With My Soul”.
We all love to hear stories of people’s perseverance in difficulty, faithfulness when faced with unfaithfulness, strength despite being weak, and so on. Just as long as it’s not our own story.
The reality is, however, that we all have a story. All of us. Our lives are a story, and we all have a choice whether to live a story that will inspire others and show God that we love him and are willing to do what is right no matter what. Or, we have a choice to live a story that becomes an example of what not to do and shows God we love our own comfort and ideas of what we want for ourselves more than what he may be doing in our life.
We can’t always control or help the conflict and difficult situations in our lives, but we do always have a choice as to how we will respond and live based on those difficulties.
Are we willing to stand strong and have our life be the story that would inspire us if we heard someone else tell it? Are we willing to remain faithful to what is right, to obey God no matter how difficult, to do what is right even when everything is going wrong? Will we be the story of perseverance and faith and endurance, or will we be the story of what not to do; the example of quitting and giving up.
I’m in no way implying the former is easy…living a story that will inspire is very hard (and we will need God’s strength to help us). Quitting is the easy choice. But no one was ever inspired by a story of someone giving up when things got tough.
What will your story be?