Why do we like a story to end “happily ever after”? Is it because we like neat, tied-in-a-bow endings, or is it a victory to ease our pain for all those stories that we can’t fix?
This weekend, we went to a movie that didn’t end the way we might have liked. The main character, a shady protagonist at best, still had a hole. He didn’t get the girl. The girl ended up hurt. I won’t tell you the name so as not to spoil it for you, but it was one of those movies where everyone sat there for a while at the end. Did we want more? Or did we want different? I’m not sure, but I walked away playing out the other scenarios of endings and I decided the writer was right. It needed to end realistically, and we got a hard reality at the end. It was finished—just not all neat and pretty.
I’m sitting here wondering this evening about those similar places in our lives that don’t wrap up as neatly as we’d like. You know—the ones that we replay over and over in our heads. What could we have done different? Where did we fail? But a better question to ask might be: Have we really failed? Just because something doesn’t turn out the way we think it should, does that make it wrong? Have we factored in that God’s Hand was on the situation and somehow, this is the way He allowed it? I believe one day we are going to have new eyes to see and it will all make sense. But our human rationale doesn’t allow us to understand why things are the way they are. Something bigger, something eternal often is at stake. God may have seen the same story as a rousing success because it fitted us more for eternity. Was pride broken? Did we learn to lean into His provision better? Did we pray with desperation, knowing He is the only One to whom we could turn? Did we store up eternal treasures at the expense of something very temporal?
When all doesn’t end the way we think it should, it seems to help to look at what did go right. And in God’s economy, nothing is wasted. So, even the temporary failures can produce lasting benefit. Even a bad day is wholly good because God can turn it around as easily as He can turn around a life. It’s only a waste if we don’t give God access to our hearts to work His good. A good life is made up of a lot of bad days that got used for good. So ultimately, eternally speaking, maybe “happily ever after” is realistic.