A great king once asked all of his best scholars to compile a history of the human race. After many years of work, the scholars came to him with the results of their work– 500 thick volumes, carried by a caravan of mules. It was the most comprehensive history ever written.
But the king was displeased, and said to the chief scholar, “This is too much; you must condense it.”
The old scholar replied: “Sir, if you desire, all of these volumes can be reduced to a single sentence. With only eight words I can summarize for you the whole history of humanity: They were born, they suffered and they died. That is the story of every person who ever lived, and thus, it tells the story of the entire human race. It is your story and it is my story. We are born, we suffer, and we die.”
This certainly is what we see of it, and a sad story it is. Billions of individual persons, each one, a miracle of life; but here only for a moment and then gone forever. Yet strangely, many people are indifferent to such a hopeless prospect, giving it little or no thought.
But, one might say, “Facts are facts, and if that is all there is to it, there is no reason to add to the misery by dwelling upon it; so let’s just eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.” Why ruin the little bit of time we have by thinking about how sad and pointless it all is?
Unless, that is, there is more to the story. And if there is more to the story, one would think all would be eager to hear about it. In fact, if there was even a possibility of more, it would only be reasonable that everyone would be on the alert for any sign of hope, paying close attention, yearning for any bit of good news that would suggest a different ending to our story.
The Bible does tell a bigger story, revealing to us that there is more to life than being born, suffering, and dying. Knowing what God tells us in that book about our lives changes everything, now and forever.
C. S. Lewis once compared the history of the world to a great play, many acts long. He said that each one of us makes our short appearance as a character in just one small part, in just one scene, of one of the many acts of this grand play. This is our only appearance, and that is all we see of the play. We may hear about some of what happened in the earlier acts, but we play our part not knowing anything of the rest of the play. We don’t even know if our part is in the beginning, middle, or near the end of the play, nor do we (on our own) know anything of how the play turns out. We live our lives and we play our parts, but we don’t know nearly enough from the little bit we see and hear about to evaluate the play. Many things will not make any sense to us– but that is what one would expect if seeing only small part of a long play. We don’t even know if it is a comedy or a tragedy or a farce.
This illustrates our plight. But we are not in a play, we are living a real life, and it would be most interesting, and perhaps even of crucial importance, to know how the play turns out.
The Bible reveals to us much more of the play. Most importantly, it tells us how the play turns out, and how we can best play our part. The Bible itself is primarily a story. Its pages are filled with stories, all of which are a part of, and point to, the main story. This is how Abraham Heschel describes the main story: “All of human history as seen by the Bible is the history of God in search of man;” every man and every woman. And so we find the rest of our story in the Bible. We find out how we got here, and what our part is in the play, and how the play will end, and even whether or not we will make another appearance. And we also find out that how we play our part now makes all the difference.
–William Shakespeare, Macbeth
James 4:14b — What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
Ecclesiastes 3:11b — …No one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Luke 12:19-20 — (The man in Jesus parable said to himself), “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”
John 3:16 — (Jesus said), “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Lord Jesus Christ, we are seekers after a city not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, in that better Country of Life which is the home of the soul. Be Thou our Guide, through the darkness in the Valley of Shadows, to the beautiful shore in that land of peace and rest. Here we live so small a part of our life; here we are strangers and pilgrims. Be Thou our Savior and help us so that we lose not the way to the Father’s house. Prepare a room in our hearts that we may one day inherit a room in that place where God himself shall wipe away all tears and where shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, nor pain; forever and ever. Amen.