Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In light of recent tragedies, how can memoirists inspire hope?

In light of recent tragedies—our nation’s unrelenting drought, excessive heat, and crop failures, for example, and the massacre in Aurora, Colorado—the following well-known tale takes on new relevance:

A shipwreck survivor, alone on a desert island, prayed for God to rescue him.

He built a hut and waited for God to answer.

Day after day, he prayed.

Then one day his hut burned to the ground.

He was devastated. Not only had God failed to rescue him, now He also let the hut burn down! Why? Why?

The next day a ship arrived and rescued the man.

“How did you know I was here?” he asked the captain.

“We saw your smoke signal.”

Cavin Harper told that story Saturday on his blog at Christian Grandparenting Network. His perspective was spot on for memoirists, whether writing for children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or a broader audience.

Cavin wrote,

“Our grandchildren need to know 
that no matter what may come, 
God knows how to make smoke signals 
and rescue us in our troubles. 
How do you communicate words of hope 
to your grandchildren in the face of tragedy 
and senseless violence?

As much as we long to live happily ever after, bad stuff happens to good people. Like Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.”

You’ve experienced trouble and sorrows—maybe even violence, crime, abuse. I’ve experienced trouble. Your readers will experience trouble. What stories can you write to help people survive their shipwrecks and burned huts?

One of my all-time favorite Bible passages is Psalm 77 in which Asaph spoke of crying out to God. “When I cried out in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted.”  

Asaph said he was too troubled even to speak.

You’ve been there, I’m sure. I’ve been there, too.

Perhaps you recall torturous weeks or months or years when you, like Asaph, wondered: “Will the Lord … never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful?”

Next is the part I like best:

Asaph says, “This is my anguish; But I will remember …” (v. 10, NKJV). “I will remember,” he stated, “the works of the Lord.”

The NIV Study Bible footnote points out that this was Asaph’s “Faith’s decision to look beyond the present troubles—and God’s bewildering inactivity—to draw help anew from God’s saving acts of old.”

That’s it! We cope by remembering what God did in the past!

And, like Asaph, we make a deliberate decision to trust in God’s previous faithfulness to us. We make a deliberate decision to believe that even if God seems mysteriously absent, He is working it all out.

Think back to a trying situation in your life. Perhaps God seemed absent, but later you discovered He had been working everything out. You survived. You learned new things about yourself and about God. You went on with your life, and it was good.

Asaph, in the very next chapter of Psalms, writes this:

“We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.… which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God…” (Psalm 78:4-7).

Isn’t that what our memoirs are all about?

Remember what Cavin Harper wrote in his Saturday blog post: “Our grandchildren need to know that no matter what may come, God knows how to make smoke signals and rescue us in our troubles. How do you communicate words of hope to your grandchildren in the face of tragedy and senseless violence?

Write your stories.

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