I am a collector of stories. I love to read and to watch good stories unfold on TV. And enjoy to listen to podcasts of people’s life stories as I clean the house and go for a run.
I’m pretty sure God wired us to learn and enjoy life through stories. This is why Jesus teaches us through parables. This is why God has given us the Bible, and a bigger picture view of his plan by letting us see how he has interacted with people throughout history.
Every great story in life and literature has some key elements. Donald Miller says it’s a formula: A character who wants something and has to overcome conflict to get it. That’s what makes a great story.
We are living a story right now. You are the character.
What do you want? Is your deepest desire just to make it to tomorrow? To raise up godly kids? To change the world (or at least YOUR world)? Stop and think about that now. What is your goal for this life?
The mundane everyday tasks sometimes get us so caught up that we quit striving for anything worthwhile. That makes for a pretty boring story. God has called you into His story. Tell a good one with your life. Want something worthwhile that will bring him glory and further his kingdom.
Here’s the thing though… All good stories have conflict. Why do we expect our lives to be conflict free? Why do we get mad at God and shake our fist at the heavens when conflict comes? He told us it will come in John 16:33, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows…”
I think we can start changing our minds about conflict though. First, in verse John 16:33, Jesus says he has already “overcome the world.” The mess we find here on earth is not the end of the story because He’s defeated death and brought us hope! That’s something we must keep at the forefront of our mind in the middle of conflict.
But here’s another way to think about conflict: it’s a necessary part to creating a great story. Think about the goal of getting stronger. In order to build muscle and be healthy, you must experience the conflict of pain. Consequently, you must overcome the desire to take the easy path and stay on the couch. Some people, when they come across a mountain, they put on their hiking boots and start to climb. Can we approach all of life’s conflict that way?
I remember my first prom. My mom was out of town, and everything went wrong from the botched self tanner to the six inch drip of bird poop down my taffeta dress. I had forgotten money and gone back home in tears to get it. My dad took one look at my wet dress and gently told me that he knew it felt horrible now, but someday I would laugh at the fiasco that Junior Prom was. He was right! And decades later, I have a great story to tell.
On a more serious and important note, Paul never mentioned any bird poop, but he was shipwrecked, beaten, and imprisoned during his goal to spread the good news that Jesus is who he said he was: The Way, the Truth, the Life, and the way to the Father.
He didn’t know it at the time but it was because the chains that held Paul captive in one place for years that God’s story was spread for thousands of miles. Paul was chained to a guard who was switched out every four hours. But nonetheless he spread the word to the guards and encouraged other Christians who were being persecuted, and his story encourages us today.
We have the opportunity to use our conflict for good. Have you experienced something that broke your heart? Use your gifts to make it better. People who have overcome great obstacles are perfect for helping others overcome the same. If you’ve experienced great grief but are able to find joy in life, find the ones who are in the middle of that great grief. Therefore, comfort them as you would want to be comforted. There is no one better to help them find joy again.
This is my challenge to you: Live a great story. Stop and think about a goal you have that make the world a better place then approach conflict like a mountain you can conquer. At the very least, endure conflict knowing that it will give you a story to tell trusting that Jesus has overcome and your conflict is not the end of the story.