Encouragement in Suffering #1: Zoom Out

Boy, oh boy! Thanks for all the encouraging responses to this singleness stuff.

I have a million more thoughts, but they all fall under categories I’ve already mentioned, and let the record show that I value organization too much to edit and add.  I thought it might be good to give you my final thoughts in the form of encouragement.  The next few blog posts will be dedicated to that.

The first big fat encouragement I can think of is: Zoom Out.

So often, life happens to us in minutes and hours and days.  But this whole thing is but a breath.  This day is over too soon. And this year will be over before you know it. And your life will be done before those around you feel prepared.  And He will come for us before most in this world are ready.

And this is an encouraging thing to remember.  Because here – in the trenches – we’re in the middle of this crazy story with rising tension and conflict and such.  And it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.

In the first five verses of the book of Ruth, Naomi endures a famine, leaves her friends, moves to a crazy sinful place, watches her husband die, watches her sons marry people who are historically enemies of God, stands by as her daughters-in-law are unable to bear children, and then witnesses her two boys breathe their last breaths.  And THEN the story starts.

Most of us live in the middle of these first five verses.  Life is happening to us.  And it’s real and it’s painful and tragic.  I think there’s comfort to be found in remembering that this is just five verses in a bigger story.  And the whole story of Naomi’s life is just a couple of pages in a way bigger story.

Pain is real.  And in the moment when it’s happening to you it seems insurmountable.  I’ve felt the grief of losing someone.  I’ve felt the bottomless ocean of despair.  I’ve felt the depth of panic that overtakes you in the absence of what you feel like you need the most.  And here’s the encouragement I have for you: it’s just a verse.

It may not even be a full verse.  It’s just a word.  In a verse.  In a paragraph. In a book.  In a bigger book.  In eternity.

And I know that may not seem encouraging for many of you.  It may seem sick and twisted and meaningless, but I just want you to know, it’s not.  Because in that moment there is an eternal and omnipotent God collecting your tears; there is an eternal weight of glory being worked out for you.  All the details in one minuscule moment are being threaded and ordained to knit together a story of glory and redemption.

If we don’t zoom out and let the weight of the bigness of the picture rest on us, then we might miss the greatness of our God who meets us in the tiny moments of our pain.

So zoom out.  Take some time each week to zoom out of your life story and look at the bigger picture.  That picture includes men and women who lived for hundreds of years in slavery.  It includes a girl named Ruth who lost her husband and her family and hope for a future.  It includes generations of real people dealing with real pain waiting and looking and longing for a Messiah whose name you and I know because of those who would obey the command to go to the nations and share the great news of a bigger story.

Zooming out can be terrifying.  My faith is shaky.  There’s much more unbelief than I might like lurking in my heart.  And zooming out reminds me that I’m banking on Jesus.  I’m banking on the bigger story.  I’m banking everything on my belief that this life is just a breath and that in eternity, our stretches of pain that seem to last forever will be momentary flashes of time that fuel my worship for a Creator who is trustworthy and true.

We look at the pain of Naomi, and we can scoff at her bitterness.  We have that luxury because we know the end of her story.  We know everything turns out for good.  We know that there’s this amazing conclusion to her life.  We know that she gets to be a part of something truly significant and so we shake our heads at her unbelief and think to ourselves, “If she only knew”. If she only knew the end of the story then she could get through the tragedy with hope.

Knowing the ending would change everything.  I hear single women every day say things like: ‘if I just knew for sure I would get married, then I would be okay with singleness today’.  We believe that knowing the ending would make it possible to have peace and joy today.

But here’s the deal: we DO know the ending.  and it’s a whole ‘h’ of a lot better than a mortal man down on one knee.

You may be sad tonight.  You may be afraid and insecure and alone.  You may be walking through tragedy that I can’t understand.  But let me remind you how this story ends: it ends with Jesus.  you and Jesus.  and a bunch of other people.  and worship.  and Jesus.  and faith that is by sight.  and Jesus.

I know it’s hard.  Life.  I know that some days it feels impossible.  But there is coming a day when He will come back for us.  And you’ll stand before your God and your King and your Savior and your life, and you’ll hear Him say ‘well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into joy today’.  And that day – that seems like the end – will really be the beginning.

7 thoughts on “Encouragement in Suffering #1: Zoom Out

  1. Oh wow Fabs. I’m serious. I only just discovered your blog a couple months ago and what you say seems to always hit me right where God has been working on me. Thank you for this encouragement. I need to share this post all over the place! Please keep writing! What you are saying needs to be heard and I don’t think there are many people saying it. God bless you!!

  2. What an answer to prayer you are–I was praying this morning for a word from the Lord and it came through you! Thanks for reminding me to change my perspective. Have a blessed day!

  3. I’m a guy (hence my name, bad grammar, spelling,etc) and even I have been encouraged by these post. I found this on my now future wife’s facebook page, a friend of hers had sent it to her to encourage her before we met. And me being curious looked at it. Even as a man who is in a godly relationship these are encouraging. My worries, my fears, and my lack of faith all point to the fact that i haven’t “zoomed out” in a long time. I keep trying to grab a hold of my life and control it on my own. So thank you for stating what should be obvious, but sadly isn’t. God bless you and the encouragement you are giving people.

  4. My dear Fabs – Thank you for this reminder. How easy it is to forget the BIG picture, but it’s exactly this that I Peter 1:13b tells us,” . . . set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” BTW, Gordon MacDonald spoke at our church last Sunday, giving an almost prophetic message, but reminding us (the church) to stay focused on this truth as things crumble around us. Thanks, Fabs, for sharing your gift with us!

  5. the great thing about your blog is that you share so openly about what is currently going on with you, and yet it still resonates so deeply with me, even though i’m in a different stage. your writing always always always hits home to me. keep em coming. you’re amazing. and also, just move to sf pls. 🙂

  6. Fabs, thank you. I continue to be amazed at the way you write so candidly about struggles and yet always point back to the beautiful gospel of Jesus. As I read, I love him more and long to know him more. Please keep writing!

  7. These entry’s have brought me peace when there was once pain regret unfulfilled thank you for your writings the insight you shared is restoring my hope and self image I know god accepts me again

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