A protagonist in a story is the main character of the story. In your life that’s you. God doesn’t just want you to be the main character of your story, he wants you to be the hero of your story.
If we are being honest, this is the kind of life that we secretly want. We wouldn’t tell anyone this, but the reality is we want our story to be written like this.
“His life started out great and it continued that way for the rest of his life. The end.”
That’s how we pray, generally, isn’t it? God I have a problem. I’m sick, I’m broke, I’m unhappy at work. God can you take away my problem? When it comes to writing the story of our lives, if it was up to us, we would author the most boring stories. If it was up to us, this is how some of the great stories of our age would be written.
The evil lord Voldemort broke into the home of James and Lily Potter only to realize that the young couple and their baby Harry had taken a last-minute trip to the beach for the weekend. When they returned their house was disheveled but nothing appeared to be missing so they didn’t bother to call their insurance. harry lived with his parents happily ever after.
Anakin had a difficult upbringing and faced many temptations growing up. However, when he was in high school he was invited to a youth camp where he gave his life to Christ. He grew up, got married and raised two beautiful, well adjusted children Luke and Leia.
Young Arliss was playing in his family farm when confronted by a stray yellow Labrador Retriever. His parents were reluctant to let him keep the dog, but finally relented. They were glad they did because one day a rabid wolf tried to attack young Arliss and the Labrador was able to fend him off without getting a single wound. That yellow dog earned the nickname Old Yellar because he lived a long full life.
The New England Patriots marched down the field on their first possession and scored a touchdown to take a lead over the Atlanta Falcons that they never relinquished to win Super Bowl 51.
Our prayers typically sound like this. God remove my problem. I’m not trying to make you feel guilty because I pray this prayer all the time. The only problem with it is that if you remove the problem all of these stories are boring.
Harry Potter has to get a lightning shaped scar and take down Lord Voldemort.
Anakin has to turn into Darth Vader.
The Patriots have to go down 28-3 to comeback and win.
You have to shoot Old Yellar.
I believe we have a deep misunderstanding of God when it comes to our difficulties and trials. God’s not satisfied with writing a boring story like that for you. He’s much more comfortable with ups and downs and twists and turns and overwhelming odds and surprise endings. Mostly because of what those events do to our character.
Jesus brother James put it like this
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
Jesus close friend Peter put it like this
Now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire —may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:6-7
It’s our trials and difficulties that teach us these lessons.
Let me show you what that that looks like in my life.
This is me performing my sons wedding. It was epic. Who thinks I cried at my sons wedding? I did not. I’m a pro. Not sure why I didn’t cry, but I enjoyed ever minute of it. The ceremony was great. The food at the reception was awesome. My son Riley and his wife Ilsa took six dance lessons to prepare for their first dance. My boy busted out moves I didn’t know he had and I know I never had. Start to finish that day was amazing.
That was Saturday. Then came Sunday. First off, I was at the condo we were staying at and I stepped on a anthill filled with fire ants. I got a hundred bites in about 30 seconds. Then on the way home we ran into traffic. We were traveling over the mountains from Palm Springs to San Diego on a highway with one lane in either direction. Everyone I followed couldn’t seem to get their car above 30 miles an hour. I managed to get behind every truck. Then when I’d pass that truck there would be a Prius. Then a smart car.
When I finally made my way into the open highway I ran into one more road block. He was hiding behind a tree holding a radar gun. I was doing 75 in a 55 zone. As he approached my car I turned on the charm. I smiled and laughed and joked. “You know your uniform really brings out the blue in your eyes.” When he walked back to his car to check my license and registration I prayed. “Dear God, don’t let me get a ticket. Don’t ruin this weekend. Don’t make me pay that fine.”
$453 dollars and four hours of traffic school later my driving record is clean again.
Really God? That’s your answer? I did not appreciate that ticket, but the reality is I’m a better driver now. I’m super conscious of the speed limit. May patience behind trucks has increased. I’m kinda patient with smart cars. Still annoyed when I’m behind a Prius doing 60 in the fast lane but you get that, right? That trial helped mature me. It made me a more complete driver. And a little more pissed off, but better and safer.
The reality is, that’s how we learn our lessons. Hard stories like financial mistakes, and impulse buying and traffic violations.
We tend to think of hard times as an annoyance or even punishment from God. There is a story told about Jesus that lets us know that these feelings are as old as time.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. John 9:1-3
Here’s the answer to our difficult times. “This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in you.”
The rough patches come because God knows our character doesn’t grow from promotions and winning lotto tickets. The trials come to make us compassionate to the hurt of others. God knows that your difficulty could be the beginning of your purpose
“Nothing brings people closer together than shared suffering” Francine Rivers
Do you know who a Francine Rivers is? She’s a romance novelist. If a romance novelist can figure that out so can we. Hard times and loneliness and potholes and speed traps. The hard lesson for me in all of that is that God did not abandon me in those times. He used them to bring out the hero in me. If it sounds like you don’t have a choice in any of this, don’t believe it. You do.
You can’t write pain out of your story but you can write out the growth.
Pain and hurt and trials happen to all of us. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden it introduced us all to hurt and pain and death. You can’t avoid it. But you can avoid growth. You’re trials and pain can just lead you to be bitter and angry at others and mad at God or you can allow God to allow those difficulties to grow you. Because God doesn’t just want you to play a bit part in your story. He wants you to be the hero.