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Jan 14, 2020

You Were Made for Narrative, But Do You Know Which One?

Jeff Cavins

Our desire and fascination with stories suggests that there is an ultimate story of which we are an integral part, a story to which we are drawn that is bigger than ourselves.

As man’s longing for God provides evidence for his existence, so the ultimate story, written by God, is evident by our endless search for a plot in which we can envision ourselves participating that will make sense of our lives.

St. Augustine once said concerning our need for God, that “our heart is restless until it rests in you.” We could also say that no story will leave us with a sense of completeness and belonging until we enter God’s story. For his story provides the comprehensive storyline by which every life finally makes sense.

Ironically we often find ourselves resisting our heavenly Father much like a teen resists being identified with parents at a high school function. We wrestle with those who are there to nourish and teach us.

A Biblical Problem

The challenge we face today is reading the Bible so the basic storyline of salvation history is clearly seen and understood. We are not talking at this stage about understanding detail, but about grasping the scope of the divine story, the big picture.

It is important to keep in mind that, while the Bible is a book of seemingly obscure details, it is also a letter written by our heavenly Father. Letters are written to be understood.

The Bible, although made up of many stories, contains a single story within its pages. Though not evident at first glance, the story is about God and his relationship with his creation, the universe.

As the creator of the universe, God could certainly have said much about the beauty and complexity of the galaxies. However, he limits the field on which this divine story is played out primarily to planet earth. While the earth is marvelous and in itself speaks of his power and glory, its role is to be a glorious stage for the greatest story ever told.

At center stage stands man, the most complex creation in the universe and the true object of God’s love and affection. It is this man that would betray God, and yet God in turn would die for man, and by means of a covenant bring man into the family life of the Trinity.

This is the world’s story, invented, orchestrated and executed by God. By inviting mankind to be his friend, companion, and most importantly his son and daughter, he has made his story man’s story.

Never Give Up the Search for Happiness

From the very beginning it was God’s intention to walk with mankind in a love relationship, but this relationship was severed through the disobedience of Adam and Eve. The fall of Adam and Eve introduced sin into the human race and has had devastating repercussions down through the centuries. Out of balance with his Maker, yet with the “desire for God written in the human heart,” man struggles to find meaning in life.

Starting with the very early chapters of Genesis all the way through the book of Revelation, God gradually reveals his plan to re-establish the broken relationship between himself and his treasured creation.

It is only in God’s revealed plan that man once again finds his intended purpose for being “because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 27).

We Are Family

It is important for the modern Catholic to understand that, when they read the Bible, they are reading a book of history. History should be very important to the Christian, for it was within actual human events that God revealed himself.

There should be no misunderstanding—this is true history as opposed to cleverly devised tales. Pope Paul VI said:

“the history of salvation is being accomplished in the midst of the history of the world.”

The Bible gives a wide range of examples of how through word and deed God has entered the life of His people.

Although God greatly loved all of mankind, we see early on in the Scriptures that His strategy to redeem all of humanity was to start with one family first and then progressively influence more and more people to the point where all of mankind would have the opportunity to be a part of His worldwide family.

He Will Provide Everything

Interwoven throughout the family story is a divine method of teaching.

God communicates himself to man gradually by this method as if to welcome us by stages. The primary theme throughout the Bible is the mighty deeds of God as they relate to the salvation of man. These great deeds of God are understood in and through the lesser deeds of the various Bible characters.

For example, the sacrificial nature of God’s love is graphically illustrated and better understood in the story of Abraham nearly sacrificing his son Isaac, found in Genesis 22.

It is here in this passage that we learn one of the revelatory names of God, Yahweh Jireh, “the Lord will provide.”

You May Also Like:

How to Explain Salvation to a Non-Christian

The Story of Salvation: God’s Primordial Promise Fulfilled

Why the Lord’s Day Is Sunday

Jeff Cavins is passionate about helping people understand Scripture and become disciples of Jesus Christ. Though he was born Catholic, Jeff went to Bible school and served as a Protestant minister for twelve years before reverting to the Catholic Faith. He then quickly became a leading Catholic evangelist and author. Jeff is best-known for creating The Great Adventure™ Bible study programs published by Ascension, which have been used by hundreds of thousands of people to engage in Scripture in a life-changing way. Some of his recent projects include his podcast, The Jeff Cavins Show, his book The Activated Disciple, and the Great Adventure Bible studies, Ephesians: Discover Your Inheritance, and Wisdom: God’s Vision for Life.

This excerpt comes from Jeff Cavins’ article, “His Story is Your Story,” and was originally published by Catholics United for the Faith July 23, 2013. It was republished on The Great Adventure Blog, Ascension Blog’s former home, September 11, 2014.

Photo by Alicja Colon from Unsplash.

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  • I have been called a teacher and a student of God’s….I have been asking God these last couple of weeks what that meant….and here is the answer….contained in this article…..I lead a Bible study group, and try to help others to see how God intervenes into life through His Word….so for me, helping others to see how the Scripture is related to their lives seems to be my calling…it has been my experience, that by reading Scripture, reading religious works, books, and articles, one gets to “know” God, relates to Him, and hears God responding to us in reply….if we are patient, open, and wait for the Lord to reply…How do we “know” when the Lord has replied to us? We “feel” it in our hearts…we “know” that what we have experienced is right and true…however we approach Scripture, let us approach it as a means of finding out about God…and who He is in our lives….

  • Your comparison of ‘the teen resisting being identified with parents at a high school function’ struck a chord with me. I am slowly realizing that I am a “closet Catholic”! I am always hoping that my ways of living would reflect my love of God and church. In other words, I am scared to say, no, to proclaim my faith because I am not sure that I can answer any rebuttals. For me to loose face in front of someone is scary. (I am still in that “teen” mentality.)
    So I pray quietly, sing quietly, and ponder about the Word of God quietly. I think it is time for me to grow up spiritually. Thank you for the timely message.

    • Hi pnkyB4brain, long time no see!
      I think you underestimate yourself!

      I know that you’ve been following these online bible studies for quite some time now, and I’m certain that you’ve learned a thing or two. Of course you have, we’ve had some of the best bible study teachers out there!

      So don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. I think if you openly live and profess your faith, you’ll notice that people WILL start asking questions. But you don’t have to know all the answers!

      I pray to the Holy Spirit for wisdom and opportunities daily (I love St Augustine’s “Prayer to the Holy Spirit”). I get a lot of questions, especially from my coworkers. I don’t profess to know all the answers, there’s just too much to know! Often, the Holy Spirit puts words in my mind that I didn’t realize were there. But many times, I’ll say, “Here’s what I think, but let me look into it.”

      Recently, a coworker was very shaken up when Robin Williams died. The following day, she asked me if I thought he was in hell. I wasn’t sure how to answer, but I told her that I believe God is compassionate and merciful. And perhaps there’s opportunity for cleansing in Purgatory. I went home that night and got online and did some research. Whenever I look for information I always look for Catholic resources, and I found a few very good articles, citing the Catechism. I printed out five pages and gave it to her.
      After discussing this, she said, “Good. A person who commits suicide won’t go to hell.” But I made it clear that it all depends. And God is the judge…

      …and by the way, in these moments, I love it when there are other coworkers in the room. They’re silent, but they’re taking it all in…

      I’ve also begun to pick up books on apologetics (there are even apologetic web sites you can start to study).

      So keep praying, singing, and pondering the Word of God. I think that the more you do this, the more you’ll want to shout it from the rooftops! I know I do…

      • Marianne, When joining this study group, I was not aware that I would find such a treasure of gifts from individuals such as you! What a wonderful reply you sent me and I will keep it close to my heart! I think I do underestimate myself. You have given me a gift of a new-found courage with your sagacious words. Thank you and God bless.

        • You’re very kind, pnkyB4brain. One of my favorite verses, I offer to you as a thought and as a prayer:

          “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)


    • My dear friend, pnkyB4brain, i would suggest the right demeanor in order to overcome fear proclaiming your faith as you know your faith given by our Lord, is to be humble enough to say you do not know the answer on what they ask for but assure them to give them your answer later. Then you have the time to research and get back to them for the answer, see also 1 Pet 3:15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a
      defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is
      in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

  • Normally reading a book is easy because generally the plot is clear and needs no explanation. Reading the Bible is the complete opposite because it is the living Word of God and has to be read in the context of so much e.g. history, geography, culture, type of literature etc. I naively thought that the 90 Day and Quick Great Adventure Studies would see me through, with the 24 week course starting soon as the icing on the cake. Nearing the end of the Bible Compass, I realise how much more study is needed. On the plus side (other than trying to figure out how to learn ancient languages and read the Dead Sea Scrolls and ancient writings etc) I am very comforted by Pope Pius XII’s words that God put difficulties in the Bible to humble us and Saint Augustine’s conclusion that he was too limited to understand everything in the Bible.

    So I will arm myself with the Catholic Bible Dictionary by Scott Hahn and accept that although I am limited, I can give it my best shot and try to remember that it helps to actually read The Bible, instead of reading about the Bible.

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