Conflict and Hope

Romans 5:3-4 – More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.

So I teach English, right? And in English, one of the “hot words” is conflict. Every story starts with a conflict, and that conflict drives the character through the plot “mountain” until he or she finally reaches the resolution. I just finished reading a book by Donald Miller, an internal narrative of sorts about narrative. In A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Miller wanders through the elements of a good story, while subconsciously applying his lessons in storytelling to his own life. Amidst his ramblings about writing a better story with his life, Miller makes some interesting points about conflict and plot structure that strangely resemble the words of the Master Storyteller. For instance, Miller writes, “The reward you get from a story is always less than you thought it would be, and the work is harder than you imagined. The point of a story is never about the ending, remember. It’s about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle” (177).

Back in my first semester of college, I memorized James 1. All incoming freshmen did at this particular school, and to date, it may well be the most important thing I accomplished in college. Among the opening verses, James exhorts the early Christians to rejoice in trials. For the early church, trials weren’t a matter of carpet color or an unmet budget–they were matters of persecution, torture, and even execution. But God, as the Master Storyteller, sees beyond the immediate pain and knows what all storytellers do, that, “It is conflict that changes a person” (Miller 180). Funny how that works. Its almost like Scripture is telling us that without conflict, there can be no hope.

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