Stories and Suffering

 Don Miller opened the Storyline Conference telling us about people who are living lives with meaning. One is “saving Rwanda”, another has organized micro-financing in Africa, and another is Pete Carroll. Don didn’t talk about Pete living a great life as a winning football coach, but instead about his work making inner city Los Angeles safer by giving the kids there a hope of a better life. 

Of all the stories, I was most struck by Don’s comments that we are all living a great story but we fail to recognize it. We are wired to avoid conflict at all costs, but that prevents us from finding true meaning in our life. If you look at great books, movies, or plays, the main character wants something and has to overcome great obstacles to get it; that is where the conflict arises. Don warns us not to go out and create “pain”, but to embrace it as part of living our “Great Story.”

Don also pointed out that the Bible is one overarching storyline with thousands of subplots. To illustrate, Don traced down the negative and positive turns in the life of Joseph. One story I can relate to is the story of Jesus and the Samarian women at the well in John 4. Jesus offers her “living water” as an alternative to her life of unholy male relationships. Recognizing the Messiah, she runs to tell everyone in the village about the man she has just met and many people believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony.

I also see myself in the story of Abigail in 1 Samuel 25. She wants to be a good Christian wife, but her husband Nabal is a drunkard and is about to get his entire family killed because he shouted insults at King David. Abigail had to make a decision to disobey her husband and instead to obey God. Because of Abigail, King David spares Nabal and his family; then God delivers Abigail from Nabal through death.

Don is teaching us to analyze the positive and negative turns in stories and also in our own lives. Even the negative turns are the seeds that grow later into fruit which sustains others.

In some ways, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.”- Viktor Frankl



Stories and Suffering- (click here for MP3 file)