I’m not sure we can overestimate the value of stories in our lives.
“How was your day?”
“How are your kids?”
If we give more than one or two word answers to these questions, they come in the form of short stories. We pick a place to start, we get to the point, and we end the chapter.
If you asked me what I had for breakfast, for instance, I could talk about how I used to eat waffles as a kid, and have cycled through all kinds of different breakfasts since, settling on breakfast burritos because they are high in protein and delicious. Or, I could tell you how, when my wife and I were dating, we would have breakfast burritos together over Facetime, and now I love them. The key fact is the same; the stories are totally different. This isn’t just spin. It has to do with our approach to the world, our hopes, our dreams, and our deepest desires.
In our lives of faith, this is part of the difference between blind optimism and Christian hope. The former simply holds that everything will work out in the end. Christian hope mysteriously roots itself in the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Some of the brute facts are the same: things are hard now, they will get better. But the story is different. The Christian story binds our suffering to Jesus’s suffering, and our life to Jesus’ life. All the plot conflicts of our lives, all the twists and turns, find their deepest meaning in this center of this grand story of the universe.
The Apostle Paul understood this brilliantly. He endlessly interpreted the events in his own life and the lives of those dear to him in the light of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Perhaps our own hope can be strengthened by these words of his to the Christians in Corinth:
“We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us; on him we have set our hope that he will rescue us again.” (2 Cor. 1:8-10)