Last week many of my friends shared this story on Facebook – maybe you saw it – about the country band Lady Antebellum’s tour bus fire. Thankfully no one was hurt, but everything in the back of the bus was destroyed. Everything except singer Hillary Scott’s Bible. The cover was damaged, but as she reported to fans on Instagram, not a single page inside was missing.
“God’s Word will always stand,” she continued. “He is FOR YOU, WILL PROTECT YOU, AND HIS LOVE FOR YOU WILL NEVER FADE. My faith is forever deepened because of today.”
I immediately thought of other stories I’ve heard over the years… wonderful, amazing, inspiring stories of people whose Bibles survived everything from house fires to hurricanes to Hitler.
These experiences really do affirm and encourage and change the lives of the people they happen to. It’s a beautiful thing, a precious gift from God, a blessing.
But at the same time, I couldn’t help but think of all the people this doesn’t happen to. The people whose Bibles don’t survive the fires or the hurricanes or the floods… or the moldy storage space … or the vindictive relatives… or the vicious anti-Christian governments.
I hope they know that God’s Word is still eternal and everlasting. I hope they know it’s not just written on pages, but written on hearts – their hearts. I hope they know – as they stand there in the ashes – that the Word of God is also a Person. (John 1:14) And that in the most excruciating moments of their lives, they begin to experience His presence like never before.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NIV)
I feel the same way about my friend who was distraught over her mom’s difficult and painful death, after a long battle with cancer. My friend had heard so many stories of people who had deathbed visions of Jesus, welcoming them into Heaven. People who rallied after days of coma-like symptoms, to speak words of final words prayer or praise or triumph, before slipping into eternity in a blessed state.
She kept waiting for something special to happen, something that would give her a sense of peace about her mom’s passing. But it never did. And no amount of help from Hospice could make what her mom went through look like a touching scene from a weepy Hallmark movie. Honestly, it was awful.
That’s the trouble with other people’s stories…
They could – and should – inspire us to worship God, to stand in awe of His love, His power, His sovereignty, His authority, His creativity, His grace, His tender mercy.
They could – and should – cause us to rejoice with those who rejoice, genuinely and sincerely. To be happy for them and what God has done for them.
They could – and should – remind us that the same God who loves them loves us – the same God who is at work in their lives is at work in our lives. It should build our faith and create in us a sense of anticipation about what He will do…
Anticipation and expectation…
The trouble has to do with our expectations. Specific expectations we create, about things we think God could do or should do for us… things we want Him to do… or things we would do, if we were Him… often based on what we’ve seen or heard Him do for others.
Yet often those expectations just aren’t met. The story doesn’t always end the way we expect…
“It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith… these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death.
“But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword.” (Hebrews 11:32-38)
Even in the Bible, not everybody got the same kind of miracle. Some didn’t seem to get a miracle at all. Their honor, their reward for their faithfulness, was coming later. And in some ways, it was much greater.
Just because God did something one way for one person, doesn’t mean He’s going to do the same thing in the same way or at the same time for us.
But believe it or not, that’s good news. Because His miracles aren’t factory-produced from templates – they’re tailor-made for us. He takes the time to intervene individually in each of our lives, at just the right time, in just the right way. He speaks to us in uniquely personal and meaningful ways.
The trials and temptations and tests He allows aren’t one-size-fits-all either – they’re designed specifically for each one of us. He knows just where we need to learn and grow, and what it will take to get us there. See, He’s giving us His one-on-one attention in the School of Life, as well.
Only He sees the big picture, the beginning from the end. Only He knows us and loves us so completely and unconditionally. Only He is so radically and absolutely committed to doing what is best for each one of us.
Some people find their Bibles fully intact in the back of a burned bus, and through this experience, they hear God say, “I love you and I’m with you always.”
Some people find their Bibles and everything they own in ashes, and through this experience, they hear God say, “I love you and I’m with you always.”
How He chooses to speak to our hearts is up to Him.
But we’ll only hear His voice if we let go of our expectations of what He’s going to say, how He could or should say it — and when.
Let go and listen.
I’ve been learning a lot about “letting it go” lately… I even wrote a whole book about it :) If it’s something you struggle with, too, you might find help and encouragement here… check it out: What Women Should Know About Letting It Go: Breaking Free From the Power of Guilt, Discouragement, and Defeat.