Happily Ever After?
For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain. 1 Thessalonians 3:5
Before my wife agrees to watch a movie that I’ve recommended, she always asks, Does it have a happy ending? There’s a reason we like our stories and movies to end with – And they lived happily ever after. It’s our idyllic outcome and in any tale, we desire that every wrinkle be ironed out by the end. We want the bad guys to get their comeuppance and we want the good guys to sail off into a future that is free of struggle or conflict. There’s a reason it’s called a fairy tale ending – because it’s impossible.
Still, we like the happy outcome. Sometimes though, this handicaps our ability to be honest, particularly when it comes to our faith. In church, we love the story of the sinner who came to Christ, found deliverance, and went on to live the blessed life, sinning no more. We celebrate and promote that story when we hear it, but then we look at our own lives and wonder why we still struggle. What’s wrong with me? Why do I still wrestle with addiction, lust, anger, greed, and gluttony? Yes, we’ve come to know Christ, but we’re not experiencing our fairy tale ending.
That’s why I’ve appreciated the apostle Paul’s honesty so much. In other places (Romans 7:15), Paul acknowledged that he struggled with his own self-destructive, sinful appetite. In today’s passage, he acknowledged that he experienced fear and anxiety. Elsewhere (Philippians 4:6), Paul said, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. It would have been easy for Paul (in today’s passage) to have claimed that he had no fear and knew everything was going to be OK, but he didn’t. He admitted that he was anxious and worried about the Thessalonians.
Though I’ve been sober for seven years, I still have struggles. Life is incomparably better now that I try to follow God instead of myself. I don’t struggle with drugs today and I wake up every day thanking God for that. To say that I don’t have any problems now though would be dishonest. Following God doesn’t mean no more struggles. It may even mean more as I must continually abandon myself to follow him.
One day, in the afterlife, we will live happily ever after, and it is absolutely true that a life of following God is infinitely better than following ourselves, but our reality is, we will all continue to experience struggles in this life.