I just finished reading the final Harry Potter book to my kids. We are now champing at the bit, excited to watch the final two movies.
As we were reading through the series, I suspected that things would turn out well for Harry in the end. Even though I was fairly certain of a happy ending, I still wanted to read the last book. Because I wanted to find out the how. I wanted to experience the surprises, see the impossible problems get solved and the loose ends get tied up.
I wish I could always keep this perspective in mind in my own life.
Last year, during a retreat, I read though a bunch of old journals, dating back over twenty years. Seeing them all together, in retrospect, helped me to identify a pretty exciting narrative. God, it became clear to me, is a master storyteller. He has the otherworldly ability to tie together global issues and world events with personal details of individual lives and myriad interconnected relationships. He can make disastrous situations and tragic loss unwitting contributors to unspeakable joy.
My biggest takeaway from that retreat was the sense that He just wants me to trust Him with my story.
That’s pretty hard sometimes, especially when the story swerves in a way you didn’t expect or welcome. This week, Kim and I made an offer to buy our dream home. The opportunity seemed to come out of nowhere and all the stars seemed to align in miraculous fashion. (Seriously, I could write a book about all the small details that came together and pointed to this house as the ONE.) A dream, twenty years in the making, after so much struggle and disappointment, on the verge of finally coming true. We were cautiously optimistic, but in truth, our hopes were sky-high.
Even though we offered more than the asking price, we lost out to another party. No happy ending for us.
When I look back on my life, I can usually see God’s fingerprints at work, and come away supremely impressed and grateful that His plans superseded my own. But in the heat of a battle, it sure is easy to look to the future with doubt and fear. If you don’t believe in a happy ending, then it’s no surprise that anxiety rules the day.
There is a great piece of advice I first heard in a Switchfoot song: Doubt your doubts and believe your beliefs. This adage suggests that a choice is involved. It also requires us to discern what we actually believe.
As difficult as it is in this moment, I choose to doubt that God is a practical joker, leading us along only to laugh in our faces. I choose to doubt that He’s a malevolent dictator relishing our pain. I choose to doubt that He’s a busy multitasker who had neither the time nor the power to help us out.
Instead, I choose to believe that He is on our side and wants what’s best for us. I believe He might just have a better view of the whole picture than I do and has considered things I haven’t or can’t. I choose to believe that He has something better in store for us, regardless of whether or not I can see the evidence of it.
There was a point in reading the Harry Potter series where I couldn’t possibly conceive of any way for Harry to complete his mission. The odds were too stacked against him and hope seemed lost. But just because we don’t see a path to victory doesn’t mean there isn’t one.
I believed in Harry’s happy ending. And because of that, as I read Harry Potter, I was not plagued with anxiety and dread as I pondered the outcome. Instead, I enjoyed being surprised by sticking revels and unexpected plot twists, excited to see how they resolved themselves in the end.
I am challenged to do the same in my life. Instead of being weighed down by discouragement and despairing anytime plans seem to go south, I remind myself to proclaim, “Plot twist!”, and choose a spirit of hope as I wait for the shocking reveals and the brilliant tying up of loose ends. I am excited to find out the how.
Doubt your doubts and believe your beliefs.
In the end, it all comes down to whether we choose to believe in a happy ending.
If we do, we become released from fear and are free to enjoy the plot twists.