When Your Story Sucks–Write a Better Ending

When Your Story Sucks–Write a Better Ending April 17, 2022

The Easter story gets better every time you tell it.

Image by saralcassidy from Pixabay

I love my pastor friend Jim—He is so full of funny stories! I used to see him every Wednesday morning at clergy breakfasts. Not a week went by where he wouldn’t lift our spirits with a funny story of some unusual thing that happened to him. If you listen to Jim’s stories long enough, you might think that he has more weird experiences than anyone in the world. But I don’t think that’s the case. I think he has mostly normal experiences like the rest of us, with a few unusual happenings mixed in. But it is his weird attitude and perspective, rather than the actual experiences, that makes everything seem comical. Jim can take an everyday occurrence and make something special out if it. He can take an unusual event and make a stand-up comedy routine. His catchphrase, as he rubs his hands together in delight is, “It gets better… It gets better!” When Mark’s gospel tells the story of Jesus’ victory over death, it just keeps getting better, too.

 

Resuscitation vs. Resurrection

Before his own death and resurrection, Jesus resuscitated people as a regular part of His miraculous ministry. There was Jairus’ daughter, Lazarus of Bethany, and the widow of Nain’s son. But resuscitation and resurrection are vastly different things. Resuscitation is breathing life into an inert body, restarting the heart, and getting the blood pumping again. With modern medicine, resuscitation is commonplace to us.

Resurrection is something entirely different. Resurrection is not just reanimation. It’s transformation. It’s the energy of God completely changing a dead person into a living, glorified, and eternal form. The apostle Paul says that comparing a natural body to a supernatural, resurrected body is like comparing a seed to a flowering plant. They’re made of the same stuff—but radically different in glory (1 Corinthians 15.35-49). This is what happened on Easter Sunday. Jesus’ body didn’t simply come to life. He was completely changed, like a seed blossoming into new life.

 

God Whispers

God took the disciples’ despair and told them, “It gets better…it gets better!” God does this in the dark places of our lives. When death seems to rule and destruction tries to reign, God speaks life to our souls and whispers, “I know you’re in the grave right now, but I promise you, it gets better.” Just as God through Jesus brings life out of death, so the Lord of Life speaks rejuvenation to those tomb-like spaces in our souls, whispering reassurance and resurrection.

Yet, sometimes, even when God works a miracle of renewal in our hearts, we don’t even know what to do with it. Like the disciples in Mark 16:8, we experience a miracle and then, instead of beginning to operate in a new way, we run and hide, overwhelmed and afraid. This is when God, like my friend Jim, leans in and promises, “It gets better, it gets better!”

 

Mark’s Original Ending

Originally The Book of Mark ended with verse 8 (NLT): “The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.” Although true, this story lacked a good ending. It didn’t have the punch that Jim’s stories have, much less the impact that the first gospel ever written ought to have. So later writers came behind Mark and added a longer ending, one that proclaims that it gets better than running away and hiding in fear. The second ending of the book of Mark (v. 8b, NLT) reads:  “Then they briefly reported all this to Peter and his companions. Afterward, Jesus himself sent them out from east to west with the sacred and unfailing message of salvation that gives eternal life. Amen.”

 

A Better Ending

Of course, this is a better ending than the first. It ends with obedient disciples rather than fearful ones. But still, it lacks any true resurrection appearances of the Lord. So, someone wrote a third, lengthier ending to the Gospel of Mark. Verses 9-20 describe Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene, and again to the two disciples walking in the country. Finally, he appears to the eleven disciples, upbraids them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, but then commissions them to go out and preach the good news. The book ends with the Ascension, and the disciples obediently doing what Jesus commands. “See–it gets better, it gets better!”

Sometimes your things don’t go the way you want. The story of your life falls short of what it ought to be. The good news is that your tale isn’t done yet. Your story may suck right now–but there’s still time to write a better ending. God’s message for you is one of resurrection and not defeat. The message of Easter is one of ultimate victory, and the reassurance that “it gets better, it gets better!”

About Greg Smith
I live in the beautiful Fraser of Valley of British Columbia and work in northern Washington State as an intensive case manager with formerly homeless people and those currently experiencing homelessness. Prior to that, I spent over a quarter-century as lead pastor of several Virginia churches. My newspaper column, “Spirit and Truth” ran in Virginia newspapers for a dozen years. My wife Christina and I have seven children between us, and we are still collecting grandchildren. You can read more about the author here.
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