Wednesday, June 12, 2013


I talk to a friend who, at this moment in her life, is enduring much sorrow and as I listen to her description of pain, I’m struck by the familiarity of her story. I listen to the lament of my own confession and repentance and it sounds an awful lot like the futile repetition of a story already lived, already told. It’s starting to get old, this story of lives, of relationships, of love broken by sin or crushed by the weight of sorrow.

Lives fixed only to be broken again, caught in a seemingly never-ending pattern.

At every turn of the page the setting for the story changes as the characters continue down a crooked path, full of unexpected twists and turns. Barren to abundant only to be broken again before being made beautiful.

I’ve heard this story before.

I listened to that friend describe utter heartbreak and, in her wounded cry, heard the faint and hollow echo of words already spoken. Every story, every life, nothing more than a repeat of the one told before it, a prelude to the one told after.

Futile repetition of the same old narrative. Futile repetition of a story where the details change from one character to the next but the plot is always the same. And every time the story’s told, it comes as less and less of a surprise that profound sorrow comes before the joy.

The stories that end with a glib promise of ‘happily ever after’ are the stories with torn out pages.

We watch as the story unfolds, and we listen to people we love share the sorrow of broken hearts, broken relationships, broken lives. A delicate page is turned and a beautiful yesterday concludes while a new ugly chapter is written. We search for words of wisdom, some way to love or to help, but words of hope seem empty and the story of heartbreak seems the same.

A story already told.

The narrative is not new. A thousand pages of old testament scripture tell us the story of the lives of God’s people, and we see the parts of this story that we’ve taken pen and underlined, circled, highlighted. Different details with the same plot: sin, sorrow, and the desperate need for Someone to fix it all and make things right.

Is it, then, truly a story of futile repetition? Or is there something more we’re supposed to see?

When life crumbles and relationships break and sin brings despair, is it just the same broken narrative or is there something else--something wondrous and hopeful--that can somehow emerge?

I read through the words of the prophet Jeremiah and as I flip through the pages of this book I'm struck yet again with the repetition of the story: sorrow, rebellion, despair. But in this weary and repetitive story a theme emerges. In our weary and repetitive story, the same theme.


It is a story already told but it is also a story with a sovereign Author writing the main plot.

Could it be that far from it being futile repetition, the part of the story where we wander helplessly through a barren wilderness is a chapter that He lovingly writes in the lives of His people before He can write this:

"Tears of joy will stream down their faces, and I will lead them home with great care. They will walk beside quiet streams and on smooth paths where they will not stumble." ~ Jeremiah 31:9

Could it be that He has written our story with a sovereign, loving pattern of repetition: His people walk through darkness and He gives them light; His people stagger under the weight of heavy burdens and He comes alongside and lifts; His people bear the shame of their sin and He sends One to wash them clean; His people work and grow weary and He gives them rest; His people know deep sorrow and He replaces it with tears of joy.

"For I have given rest to the weary and joy to the sorrowing." ~ Jeremiah 31:25

Could it be that the One who has written the story of redemption lovingly breaks our hearts in order to draw us to a Love that will not fail?

Long ago the LORD said to Israel: "I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself." ~ Jeremiah 31:3