Fairy Tales & The Book of Job
I believe fairy tales are for everyone.
Fairy tales, as part of the larger category speculative fiction, have a wonderful ability to transport your mind into another place and time, tell a fantastic story, and yet still relate to issues that people face in their everyday lives. At their best, fairy tales live on in the minds of readers because they are told with the vibrancy of object lessons. No matter how much evil characters seem to triumph, they ultimately face rotten ends: heads chopped off, eyes gouged out, or even forced to dance in red-hot shoes until they die. No matter how much good characters have to suffer, they ultimately come out alright — most of the time. In fact, the optimistic endings of fairy tales is the reason we call an improbably good outcome a “fairy tale ending.”
Christians live a fairy tale. When we first enter the world, we’re born into sin. We’re the evil character, and in many cases we may find ourselves surrounded by other evil characters. Then Christ calls us to Himself. We’re made holy and whole by His sacrifice. By His grace, we’ve become the improbably “good” character in the story–the one destined for eternal joy and happiness in serving the King.
But wait. There is always The Middle Place. The Middle Place is the most difficult part of any fairy tale, when everything that can go wrong, does go wrong–and sometimes, it’s even the good character who messes things up! The part where Cinderella must labor many years for her cruel step-family. The part where Sleeping Beauty is pricked by the spindle. The part where the True Bride‘s prince is put under a spell and forgets all about her.
Christians must face The Middle Places. Sometimes the tribulations seem too much to bear. Serious illnesses. Financial ruin. Difficult work environments. Horrible heartbreak. The list goes on and on, and sometimes it’s hard to believe there could ever be a good outcome.
Enter Job. A man who was righteous before God and man, having much wealth and reputation. In his Middle Place, he is tested by Satan to an inch of his life. When Job sought comfort, he found a wife who told him to curse God and die, and friends who were certain that he must be hiding secret sin. Throughout the middle, which comprises about 37 of the book’s 42 chapters, Job is constantly asking God why he has to go through this agony. What has he possibly done to deserve this treatment? Why does he have such lousy friends? Where is God in the midst of suffering?
Yet, Job clings to hope. He never stops pursuing God for answers—and in chapter 38-41, God answers him with a walloping, incredibly convicting summary of His divine power. It comes down to this: God is God of everything, and He knows what He’s doing, even when we don’t. Our lack of understanding doesn’t reveal His errors in justice, but our inability to comprehend His plans.
And in the end, Job receives double the amount of what he lost, and saw his grandchildren, great-granchildren, and even great-great-grandchildren. How’s that for a fairy tale ending?
My fairy tale retellings exist in The Middle Places. The places where you find yourself ashamed, broken, hurt, and distant from the world. Where your friends’ counsel seems to ring hollow, and your heart is heavy with guilt or grief. Where all you want to do is charge the throne room of heaven, and demand answers–or even just curl up into a small corner and wait for the horrors of life to end. When your prayers seem too frail to reach heaven’s gates. Because I’ve been there. We all have. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is present in those Middle Places. That our fairy tale ending has come, in the form of Christ, and will come, when He returns.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” – 1 John 3:1-2