I have always loved a good cliff-hanger. That moment when your favourite TV show or book gets to the last minutes or pages and suddenly, everything changes… then the credits roll… end of an episode or end of book one. “Will they survive? Will the day be saved? Who was that guy? He’s still alive!?” Those are great moments. Unfortunately, that simple joy may be lost on the next generation. They are used to ‘binge-watching” entire series, where the next episode simply continues with limited time for wonder or suspense. There is something incredible about the way narrative, suspense, and the unknown come together to create an experience of satisfying anticipation.
Recently, a pastor I listen to mentioned that this enjoyment of suspense is something God shares with us and the idea really caught my attention. Especially, because it feels like we are living in a episode of a reality TV right now. God has a habit of working just when things seem most dire.
Redemption Through Suspense
The Bible is full of these kinds of moments. Abraham and Sarah were given a child in their old age, even though Abraham’s body was “as good as dead.” (Romans 4:19, not my words!). Then Abraham had that same child of promise, Isaac, tied and placed on the wood of the sacrifice with his knife in the air before the angel yelled “Stop!” (Genesis 22)
The people of Israel saw the dust of Pharaoh’s chariots coming behind them and the expanse of the Red Sea in front of them. They had no way of knowing that in just a few hours, they would be on the other side of the water, while the chariots would be buried beneath the waves (Exodus 14).
God waited until Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were IN the furnace to make himself visible and save them (Daniel 3:16-28). Their friend Daniel had to spend the whole night in the lion’s den to display God’s saving power (Daniel 6).
Jesus’ disciples had to endure a storm on the Sea of Galilee fearing for their lives as their ship filled with water before Jesus woke up and said “peace be still” (Luke 8:22-25). This is a pattern with which God is very familiar.
The ultimate example of this, of course, was our Lord Jesus. He was flogged, beaten, crucified, pierced, declared dead, wrapped in cloth, buried in stone, and the stone was sealed for 3 days before he rose again in victory over Satan, sin, and death to purchase the salvation of all who believe (Luke 24:1-12).
Faith is Suspense
God still uses suspense today to capture our hearts and minds. In our own church family, our newest member had to be flown to Toronto for a 5-hour open heart surgery as we waited for God to answer our prayers for safety, health, and healing. We are so thankful for answered prayer. God loves to make us sit on the edge of our seats. It is in these moments where the future is unknown and out of our control where we most accurately understand what it means to live by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). It is then we realize most clearly that God is in control and we are not. The reality never changes, we are never in ultimate control of our lives, but our perspective on what we are capable of without God shifts towards the truth, “without [God you] can do nothing” (John 15:5).
As we continue to wait in this season of declared emergency, we can rest in the fact that this fits right into God’s favourite genre. We are feeling isolated, sad, lonely, bored, and frustrated. Maybe we realize we need God more than we thought. In our weakness he is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9). God provides mercy, love, and power by his grace to all who call on Him (Romans 10:13). Our faith is not built on what we see, understand, or anticipate. It is built on the strong foundation of Christ’s work for us and his promises to us. Living by faith and not by sight is to live in suspense of what God will do next. He knows the end and is working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).