The Happy Middle

A while back I wrote about my dislike evangelical stories with trite happy endings. Stories where the protagonist doesn't know God or has walked away from God, goes through crisis after crisis until they come or come back to faith, then all their life comes together smoothly, better than ever before. I don't like these stories because I don't think they're true.

But there is a paradox. How can a story about the Gospel not have a happy ending? The Gospel is the mother of all happy endings. We were dead in our sins, now in Christ we are alive.

But most often in this life, we have to wait for the fulfillment of all God has promised us. For now, uncertainties and personal messes continue. We have only the promise that it will get better, while our present is still messy, complicated and awkward. 

Most stories in this life have a happy middle. People cry out to God in pain or difficulty, God doesn’t remove the pain or difficulty, but the people find hope in his promises. The seeming contradiction between the promises and their circumstances drives them to prayer, and out of prayer comes calmness and peace. I call it a middle, because one looks forward to God fulfilling the promises in a greater way. But it is happy, because in that way beyond human understanding, knowing the promise brings assurance, even when it is not yet fulfilled. Blogger Addie Zierman calls it the "hard, beautiful middle of faith." 

Actually I've felt the happy middle concept for years, without putting a name to it. My two favorite novels, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s First Circle and Cancer Ward both featured a happy middle. In the first, Gleb Nerzhin leaves the almost paradise of the special camp for an ordinary camp, but is at peace because he feels he has done the right thing. In the second, Oleg Kostoglotov leaves the hospital, his cancer largely cured, but not necessarily totally; but he still has exile and gives up hope in either of his two love interests from the hospital, but he too is at peace with himself. 

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