“but with Your own eyes You saw my body being formed. Even before I was born, You had written in Your book everything I would do.”Psalm 139:16 (CEV)
You could say our lives are one big story containing a beginning, middle, and end. Some of our stories are humorous or adventurous, while others are filled with sadness or with horrifying unpleasantries. Some of our stories tell a tale of death, damage and turmoil whereas others speak of life, hope, and joy. Some may be gifted in length even as others are cut short and suddenly.
I was thinking about this while driving one day and pondered the story of my own life.
I had lived twenty years of my life traveling on a very wide path of self-destruction with no moral compass to lead me back home. Even though I had believed in God, my life was completely self-centered and controlled by my one and only self. It was no way to live but it was how I lived for two decades of my life. Honestly, it was how I always imagined living and never thought anything would or could ever be different.
That is, until I crashed and burned and realized living for my self made me by myself and without any purpose. It was an empty, meaningless way to spend my time here on earth and deep down in the pit of my soul I knew there had to be another way.
I had to fail and I had to hit my own version of rock bottom but I am so thankful that I did. Being alone in the dark, wallowing in my own self-pity and hoping there was more to life than what I was experiencing, I chose to look upward. I finally saw the Light my husband (then-boyfriend) had told me about. My soul was awakened and my eyes opened to the magnificent presence of Jesus and God’s beautiful promise achieved on the cross.
While I believe part of my purpose here on earth is for God to use my story for His glory (through my gift of writing and the work God is calling me to), that is not what was on my mind during my driving commute that day.
What was heavy on my heart was the thought that there are so many people in this world who don’t recognize their life is a unique story that was written long before they even existed on earth. Every single person God ever created (yes, even those precious babies conceived who tragically had never uttered a breath outside of the womb) was placed in this world during a specific era, for a specific time, in order to fulfill God’s perfectly designed plan for his or her life.
I don’t know about you but that gives me goosebumps of excitement to even begin to fathom God’s grand plan to not only consider me but to also write me in as part of His marvelous story.
But so many of us, including followers of Christ, skeptics and unbelievers, simply don’t believe we are valuable, enough, qualified, capable or worthy of purpose so we go about living life like there is no end in sight (YOLO!) even though we know our life will inevitably come to an end someday. When we think that way or live that way, we feel as if our world is shaken or torn apart when disaster strikes or when tragedy hits the heart of our home. If we are fearful, shamed, guilty, defeated, overwhelmed, anxious, etc., Satan has won and we are right where he wants us. Those feelings we are experiencing do not come from our Lord above. They come from the world below and we will be enslaved and bound to these bitter lies if we let them control us.
It doesn’t matter what you have done, where you have come from, or who you were living for. Nope. None of that matters to God because all He cares about is you, your salvation and bringing you to your Heavenly home. All you have to do is say “yes” to Him and acknowledge that your failures (past, present, and future) are not fatal. God can use your story to bring Him glory. Your story both before accepting Christ and after is worthy of Godly praise and He will use you to encourage others and to help grow His Kingdom.
You may be saying to yourself, “Ok. Well, I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, but I still mess up.”
Guess what my friends? That is what the cross is all about! God’s grace was gifted to each of us the moment Jesus was sacrificed. Jesus paid the price for all of our shortcomings…ALL. OF. THEM. Becoming a Christ follower doesn’t save us from sin, it saves us from the fiery evils of hell. Yes, we will still mess up even after welcoming the Holy Spirit into our hearts because we are humanly flawed and bent toward sin. [Ref. Genesis 3 – Fall of Man] We will sin because we are broken, but we are not undone. When we accept Jesus’ great sacrifice for us on the cross we are filled with His Spirit instead of filled with our self or things of the world. We are redeemed and are in the process of sanctification [i.e. transformation] to become more and more like the person God created us to be – the person with a unique and specific purpose whose story was written long before creation even existed.
I often wonder that about my own story and question why God would allow me to wander away and ruin my life. The simple answer to that is free-will. If you go back to the beginning of the Bible in Genesis 1-3, you will learn we were perfectly designed free from sin but as soon as Adam and Eve gave into temptation in the garden of Eden, sin entered the world and cursed all of humanity. That awful curse bent us away from God and toward the world. This is why we sin and experience emotional distress brought on by shame, guilt and the like.
And when it comes to bad things happening to “good” people…well, that is much harder to process and digest and there is no “right” answer.* It is definitely one of those things I hope to ask God someday. What I can tell you from my personal story is when you experience pain, heartbreak, and tragedy, you are given a choice on how to respond – you can choose to question God, worry or fear the worst, or become angry or anxious (which are of the world) OR you can choose to seek hope, strength, courage, peace and understanding. Let me tell you, I have chosen both and one has led me further down a road of emptiness while the other opened a door of purpose, possibilities and fullness. Choosing the latter is what pushed me out of my comfort zone, closer to Jesus and stronger in my faith. I have not been the same person ever since and there is no other way I’d rather live than with total abandonment of my self and complete surrender to my Savior.
Terrible things like a child getting cancer, a natural disaster wiping out an entire town or a horrifying terrorist attack will occur in our broken, fallen world but if we seek God we will find peace and hope in Him. Sometimes it’s our addictions (sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc) or our selfishness that get the best of us and lead us to God. Other times it could be a health or relational issue. Whatever it is, Jesus is there to comfort you and settle the cries of your heart. Trust God has a better way and a better plan for you, for us, and for our loved ones. Better and more spectacular than you could ever imagine. All we have to do is trust Him and let Him write our story.
That gives me hope in our broken, fallen world. Hope for the lost and trust that my story, and yours, can assist in leading the lost to the cross.
Our unique life stories are all a part of God’s grand story to use us for a specific purpose. That purpose, my friends, is to build God’s Kingdom and to bring hope to all who will hear that things will get better. Things will be better. It’s eternity we are after, not the here and now. I pray you will always seek Jesus, find Him, and allow our Father to write the story He wrote for you in His Book well before you were even born.
*Ask yourself: Are people entirely good? What makes a person good? These complex questions are actually quite simple when you understand every human being has sinned and has fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). A great resource to dive deeper into this topic is the book God Over Good.