Margaret Atwood wrote a short story entitled “Happy Endings”. It is a meta-fictional story that gives the reader the opportunity to choose one of six endings to different plots. Happy Endings is a call to action which shows us that regardless of what life choices are made “all stories end in death”. This statement, by Atwood who was born in Ottawa, Ontario and was an active environmentalist is made three times in this creative short story.
All stories end in death” is a wake up call to the reality that no matter how peaceful, comfortable or secure life may appear death is still the end result. The reality of death can also have a happy ending if Heaven is our north star directing us through the journey of life.
Randy Alcorn says that “Heaven – our assurance of eternal gratification and fulfillment – should be our North Star reminding us where we are and which direction to go. When we realize the pleasures that await us in God’s presence, we can forego lesser pleasures now. When we realize the possessions that await us in Heaven, we will gladly give away possessions on Earth to store up treasures in Heaven.”
For that reason we are told in Matthew 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Many have been deceived by America’s extreme capitalistic system to believe that a happy ending involves having a good education, making a big salary, and saving as much as possible for retirement. Jesus directly confronted this way of thinking when He declared in Luke 12:15, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Jesus went on to further explain why a happy ending is not the result of finding security by saving as much as possible, when he told the following story. “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself. ‘What shall I do? I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and goods. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things 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?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God” (Luke 12:16 – 21).
The person who spends his whole life getting, grabbing and hoarding in pursuit of a happy ending will one day recognize when death arrives, that his efforts have been in vain. He or she will see death as the dead end of the illusion of the American Dream.
The reality that death is not a dead end but a door to eternal life is expressed through out the scriptures and revealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is this resurrection which assures me of the reality of Romans 8:28 where it says, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” This scripture assures me that while I am on this journey of life I can know that everything will work out because God is in control.
As this knowledge grows through the daily experience of God’s provision and the resurrection power of Jesus Christ I can become an Easter person. Easter people are those through whom God’s goodness and grace can flow into the lives of the hurting, hungry and homeless.
Jesus shows in story after story throughout the gospels how we can be stewards of hope in the most hopeless situation. The steward of hope is an Easter person who brings about the radical reversal necessary for a happy ending to and other wise hopeless situation.
In Matthew 8:5 the centurion comes to Jesus in desperation and cries out “Lord my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” Jesus brings a happy ending in the midst of the hopelessness expressed by responding to the man’s faith and declaring, “‘Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.’ As a result the servant was healed that very hour.” As Easter people we can also move forth by faith and pray for the healing and the happy ending for the sick and hurting people God brings into our lives.
Not only is God in control of life itself but even death, which is a happy ending and a new beginning because of the Resurrected Christ who is “the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” Charles Spurgeon explains this happy ending and new beginning by stating, “In this world it doth not yet appear what we shall be. God’s people are a hidden people, but when Christ receives His people into heaven, He will touch them with the wand of His own love, and change them into the image of His manifested glory. They were poor and wretched, but what a transformation! They were stained with sin, but one touch of his finger and they are bright as the sun, and as clear as crystal. Oh! What a manifestation!”
With each passing day the reality that I don’t have to wait for heaven to experience the transforming love of Jesus Christ becomes more and more certain. The scriptures along with all the wonders of creation talk to me daily about God’s love. The reality of this love is reflected in every sunrise.
Personally receiving God’s love involves knowing “the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe” (Eph. 1:18, 19). Now as Easter people who have experienced the resurrection of Jesus Christ we are called to exercise the faith to bring happy endings to the lives of hurting people. “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and “sinners”?’ On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners’” (Matt. 9:10-13).
Anne Rice, the writer who was famous for her vampire stories wrote how the realization of God’s love transformed her life. In her autobiography entitled, “Called Out of Darkness” she described the happy ending and the new beginning she experienced once she personally came to know of the Love of God. “His was the Divine Mind that had created the sound of the violin in the Beethoven concerts; His was the Divine Mind that made snowflakes, candle flames, birds soaring upwards, the unfolding mystery of gender, and the gravity that seemingly held the Universe together – as our planet our single little planet, hurtled through space. It was love that brought me to this awareness, love that brought me into a complete trust in Him, a trust that God who made us could not abandon us – that the seeming meaninglessness of our world was the limit of our understanding, but never, never the limit of His…. This is a mystical thing that I am trying to analyze; it is a transcendent moment when one sense with all one’s faculties that the Love of God is the air we breathe. It was only as I felt this love and this trust that I realized I believed in Him. It was only in love and trust that belief followed – and all became part of the complete surrender; go to Him, go with Him. Pass out of resistance into Him.”
You can experience a happy ending in the midst of whatever seemingly hopeless experience you are now encountering. This is illustrated in the story of Lazerus where everything appeared totally hopeless to Mary and Martha. What hope is there for a happy ending when your brother Lazarus is dieing? The story is recorded in John 11. Mary and Martha are desperate. They send for Jesus. They believed He could heal their brother but instead of coming immediately Jesus stayed where He was for two more days.
“On His arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother” (John 11:17-19).
What do you say to someone when their brother, who they loved dearly, has died? What assurance can you give them that there will be a happy ending? If this story has a moral it is never, never, never give up on believing there will be a happy ending. Instead, keep on believing in spite of the circumstances and give the problem to Jesus.
Martha and Mary did and “when Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in Spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ He asked. ‘Come and see Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept” (Luke11:32-35).
Move on to the scene and put yourself in that time and place. Lazarus is dead. Everyone is crying. How in the world can we expect any kind of happy ending?
When Jesus says, “take away the stone” Martha responds, “But, Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” In other words she is saying, “Come on Jesus, lets face it, you blew it. You have arrived four days late and Lazarus is not only dead he is stinking. Lets face reality; there is no happy ending here.”
Listen to how Jesus responds to Martha. “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I know that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they might believe that you sent me.’ When He had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go’ (John 11:38-43).
Now Jesus is telling us to take the grave clothes off that seemingly hopeless problem and let the happy ending come forth. We are told to take the grave clothes of unbelief off in order that the glorious miracle that God has for us can take place. Dare to believe and have faith in Jesus in even the most hopeless events in life. When you do, you will experience the glory and life of God in a new and powerful way. As this happens you are able to see each day as a miracle and a gift from God to be used for His glory.
David pleads in Psalms 39:4-7, “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each mans life is but a breath. Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro; He bristles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.”
A happy ending takes place when I come to the end of myself and am awakened to the power, wisdom and glory of God. At moments like that I find myself raptured into the presence of God in such a way that I feel like every fiber within my mortal body wants to shout forth with praise. Who can describe much less understand the hope and power He provides?
John explains this happy ending and new beginnings in Revelations 21:1-4 when he declared, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with man, and He will love with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
John goes on and further explains the happy eternal endings awaiting believers in Rev. 22:1-5. “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding to fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
The most exciting thing is that we will be in the presence of Jesus for all eternity. He tells us in Rev. 22:12-17, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, but they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. I Jesus have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the Bright Morning Star. The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’ and let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”
All the tastes of Christ’s glory now are but a simple sample of the happy endings and glorious beginnings that are awaiting us as we spend an eternity in the presence of God.
With this assurance in mind let us courageously seize each day and use it for the glory of God. A happy ending to this life is awaiting us as we move into the beginning of an eternity with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.