“Happily ever after.” Prince Charming wins the heart of the princess. The family is reunited after years of division. The good guy wins and the villain is brought to justice. The broken relationship is reconciled. We can close the book or watch the credits roll, satisfied at the story’s ending.
We long for happy endings in our own lives, too. Maybe you’re wondering if that will ever be possible for you. Will the healing ever come? Will he love me again? Will this mess ever be fixed?
There’s a happy ending in store for all of us that’s better than anything we could dream up. It not only affects how we see the ending of our story, but it changes the way we view the middle, too. Let’s step into the lives of two people whose responses to circumstances in the middle of their stories shaped the rest of history—including your story and mine.
A Piece of the Pie
Think about Mary, the mother of Jesus. We know the details of her miraculous story—how this young woman, a virgin, gave birth to the Son of God. But we also know this story from the perspective of hundreds of years later. It’s easy on our side of the timeline to think, Of course Mary was obedient. Of course God chose her to be the mother of Jesus. But let’s rewind and look at the story from Mary’s perspective.
She was an ordinary girl, a young woman who was engaged to a good man. Her life changed in an instant with a visit from an angel, Gabriel. Naturally, she was concerned at his appearance (Luke 1:29). I know I would be, too. This was the first time anything of the sort had happened to her. Gabriel calmed her fears and told her that God found favor in her. Soon she would give birth to a son who would be the Savior of the world.
As a young woman, a virgin, chosen to be the mother of Jesus, how do you think you would have responded? With fear? Awe? Uncertainty? Denial?
I’m sorry, God, but you have the wrong girl. This is not how my life is supposed to work out.
Thanks, but no thanks.
Jesus? The Son of God? I don’t think I can handle this.
This is crazy. Am I dreaming?
How did Mary respond?
“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
In faithful obedience, Mary said yes. Though she likely had all kinds of questions and emotions surfacing, she let go of her grip and her plans to open her hands in surrender. As Nancy and Robert say in chapter 14,
What other response is appropriate when the God of the universe speaks? When He says, “I want to use you to be a part of my redemptive plan on earth” . . . when He asks us to lay down our plans and dreams for the sake of His kingdom . . . when He assigns us a task that is far beyond our human capacity . . . Yes, Lord. (p. 176)
Next, let’s consider Joseph. This young man, engaged to Mary, discovered his betrothed was pregnant. Though he was likely confused and possibly upset, we see his good character as he wanted to protect her reputation and divorce her quietly. (You can read this part of the story in Matthew 1:18–19). Then an angel appeared to him in a dream, revealing the Lord’s plan, instructing him to take Mary as his wife, and become the earthly father of Jesus. When Joseph awoke, Scripture tells us “he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him” (Matt. 1:24).
As had Mary, Joseph showed the same brave trust by his response. Nancy and Robert point out, “They had no idea—nor do we—what the future would hold, but their confidence in the One who held the future was unassailable” (p. 181).
Did Mary and Joseph know how important their responses would be to the rest of human history? Through their faith and obedience, God sent Jesus into the world to be hope and light for all of humanity. Mary and Joseph clung to God, trading their plans and expectations for a life of yielding to the One who can be trusted.
In the Middle
What we see in front of us is only a piece of the pie, a sliver of eternity. Our heavenly Father sees the entire pie—the whole picture. Joseph and Mary simply responded to God and the plan that He was working out through them. They didn’t know what their future would look like. God didn’t reveal the details of the hows and whens and whys, but He told them what they needed to know—that His plan is good, even when we don’t see it.
Though we all face ups and downs and twists in the road, God’s story will one day make sense. And as Nancy and Robert say, “It will be far better than anything we ever imagined, surprising and delighting all those who have trusted Him” (p. 190).
The Bible gives us a look into the future. In a way, it’s a spoiler to let us know that no matter what happens in our lives, a greater story is unfolding and the happy ending will come. Read this passage in Revelation 19:11–16:
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
In chapter 15 of You Can Trust God to Write Your Story, Nancy and Robert talked about the “already, but not yet” state of mind. While we’re experiencing the trials, heartache, and devastation of this imperfect world, we anchor ourselves to the promise that Jesus is already reigning and one day will put an end to all evil. Sounds like the perfect ending, right? It will be the happiest of any ending and the beginning of eternal life for those who have given their lives to Jesus.
That hope is what holds us together in the midst of this life, as we tether our hearts to Him. In the tension of waiting for Christ’s return, we can live with His peace as we steady our lives on the One who is in control. We know that the happy ending is coming, and it frees us up to live with unhindered trust.
Like Mary and Joseph’s beautiful demonstration of trust, we, too, can respond in obedience as we see that God’s story is so much bigger than what’s happening right now. Not only is He at work in the details, but He sees the big picture and is accomplishing His purposes for His good and glory.
This is the best happy ending, and it’s not even an ounce of fiction. We’re invited to be part of the story. Are you in?
Reflect and Discuss
As we’ve read in these chapters, perspective changes everything. Read Ephesians 1:5–6. Write out those verses in your journal or put them somewhere noticeable to remind you of God’s great purposes.
Think of a time when you knew God was asking you to obey Him. What was your response? What might God be asking of you right now?
Read Revelation 21:1–8. How does knowing the end of the story shape how you live today?