Most of us love a good literary plot twist. Luke Sywalker turns out to be the son of Darth Vader. The Wizard of Oz is a fraud or the homebody hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, is swept (by thirteen dwarves and a wizard) into a transformative adventure he never saw coming. Friends have likely recommended a novel or movie to you saying, “It’s got some amazing plot twists!” At an arm’s distance, in the realm of fiction, we love a good plot twist. In our own lives? Not so much. Those more likely come as unwelcome guests and can throw our lives into upheaval. So how do we navigate these inevitable experiences? As ever, let’s turn to the Bible for suggestions.
From the time they joined Jesus in His ministry, the lives of the disciples were packed with life-changing experiences. Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19) was a one hundred and eighty degree turn for him. Peter and Cornelius being given a vision of including Gentiles in the church (Acts 10 & 11) was also revolutionary. The disciples witnessed unimaginable miracles on a regular basis. Finally, Christ’s silence before Pilate, His resurrection, ascension and Pentecost were rapid-fire, unexpected and profound events – plot twists for sure.
What did Jesus model and what resources did He put in place for the disciples, and for us, in navigating such challenging experiences? Jesus demonstrated his belief in the importance of community. He created a group to walk with him and to walk with each other. Before the Last Supper He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer…” (Luke 22:15). Likewise, facing crucifixion, Jesus wanted His disciples with Him, saying to Peter, “Could you not stay awake with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40) Jesus also founded the Church as a community for believers so we would not walk alone and would find strength in each other. As a group, on Sundays and in our weekday connections, we are there for each other. We uplift and enrich each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. We serve together and support each other’s faith. Community strengthens us to navigate what might otherwise be overwhelming plot twists in life.
Finally, when we must confront an experience alone, Jesus promised, “I will not leave you comfortless.” (John 14:18 KJV) The Holy Spirit is with us. We are never alone.