On Loving Flawed Stories
Have you ever read a book that your friends hated and liked it? Have you ever read a book review that bashed anyone who read the book if they dared say they liked it? Have you ever held back on sharing about a movie you love with your friends because you’re afraid they’ll think you’re stupid?
You’ve been here long enough to know—I always love swapping story opinions with others on books or films, whether or not we agree. I love discovering which stories captivate them, which ones failed, and why.
I have enjoyed a number of flawed stories. I can watch The Last Jedi and acknowledge a lot of plot decisions just don’t make sense, while still enjoying the ones that do. I can watch a Disney remake that didn’t meet people’s expectations and appreciate the something different.
But I can also tear apart something that didn’t resonate with me or that didn’t do well. I can be too hard on my own stories when I spot flaws or people point them out to me.
I wonder if we’ve forgotten how to love something flawed. I wonder if we’ve forgotten to just love the stories we love.
It’s okay to love flawed stories.
Of course, sometimes a flaw isn’t just a poor plot point or an overall bad reception. Sometimes it’s something really wrong. That’s not what I’m talking about here. If there’s something truly wrong with a story or an event or a project or whatever, we’d do well to stay away from it.
I’m talking about the mess. The work needed. The lack of resolution.
My opinions are just that—opinions. They may have strong influential power, but they can’t make anyone do anything. That is ultimately up to the person themselves.
We have this idea that everything needs to be perfect. Maybe it stems from the Garden of Eden. Maybe we know that everything isn’t right here on earth, and we want to fix it.
But the things that really matter have already been fixed. God knew we could never put it back together again on our own, so He sent His only Son to take the horrible consequences for us. Our eternity started then. But in the meantime, we still have to deal with the brokenness here.
It’s okay if you love your own story when you know it needs work.
It’s okay if you love your life even if it’s messy and unresolved.
It’s okay to love yourself even if you make mistakes or don’t look the way you think you ought to look.
I think when we love the things that captivate us, even when they’re flawed, it points a little bit to a Creator who loved us even though we broke our perfection. He loves you every single day no matter what comes. He chose you when you were flawed.
In fact, what seems to be a flaw to you might just be the perfection He designed. What throws someone off of a particular story might be what captivates me. It’s the same with us.
We’re almost halfway through 2023. How did that happen? Maybe it didn’t look the way you expected. Maybe there are a lot of bumps along the road. But it’s okay to love those things. Because those flaws are the things that brought you here and will continue to nudge you forward.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter whether you liked a certain story or not. But it does matter how you felt about your flaws.
I'm back with another guest post today! I met Eliana through the Young Writer's Workshop and have loved getting to know her and her writing journey. I appeared on her blog nearly two years ago, but today, we've swapped blogs. She's going to share her thoughts on Psalm 73. I was inspired and uplifted by her thoughts and hope you will be too!
Hi, my name’s Eliana, and I’m borrowing Rachel’s blog today! I shared a devotional at a summer camp last year, and I wanted to share this word of encouragement with all of you.
During that week of summer camp, we focused on what it means to “rejoice always,” as commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:16. However, it isn’t always easy to rejoice. It isn’t always easy to find joy or even just contentment.
We live in a world that’s not what it was meant to be. Ever since a man and woman named Adam and Eve started a rebellion against their Creator, our world has been broken.
Earth is cursed with wars and conflicts, sickness and pain, cruelty, hardships, sadness, and death.
You and I have experienced the brokenness of our world on a day-to-day basis, whether it’s a conflict with a sibling, the guilt of our own mistakes, or grief over the loss of a loved one.
We have a huge problem. The joy-crushing problem of sin.
Today, I want to talk about Psalm 73 and introduce you to its writer, a man named Asaph.
Here’s a little bit of background first:
But even though praise and thanksgiving was part of his job description, Asaph struggled a lot, just like we do. In Psalm 77, he writes about feeling weary and sad and troubled. Sometimes, he felt like God was too far away.
This is because Asaph was made to have a perfect relationship with God, just as we were. One of the wonderful things about our God is that He is perfectly holy. Sadly, we are not. Even if we tried as hard as we could, none of us could meet God’s perfect standards. Our sin blocks us from having that perfect relationship with God that we were meant to have.
Asaph often saw people doing terrible things and forsaking God, and at the same time, these people still seemed to find happiness. Asaph knew that God was good and that following Him was the right choice, but seeing bad people prosper made him jealous, even when he wasn’t supposed to be jealous.
At the beginning of Psalm 73, Asaph wrote:
Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
3 For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Asaph struggled with the rotten world around him and his own rotten heart. Sometimes, he wondered if it might be better to be a person who hates God but is happy than a person who loves God but is sad. But eventually, Asaph learned four secrets that helped him to find heavenly satisfaction even in the midst of his struggles.
The first secret is one Asaph actually found as he looked at the wicked people around him.
Secret 1: The things we go to for satisfaction—food, entertainment, even friends—don’t fix the problem. They only cover it up.
When you eat a bowl of delicious ice cream, it’s great at the moment. You can find some happiness in eating that ice cream. But then it’s gone. It doesn’t satisfy you for long, and it might even give you a stomachache.
You could try to find joy in a book. I love books, so I get it. But books aren’t perfect, and even if the book you’re reading is a really, really good one, you’ll reach the end of it eventually.
Maybe you like playing music or painting pictures. Those can be great ways to spend your time. But if you stake your happiness in your own performance, every mistake will be painful. You won’t find true contentment there either.
There are a lot of ways you can try to find happiness, but none of the world’s pleasures will fix the world’s problem.
The world’s pleasures never last forever. And if we don’t put God first, the world’s pleasures are only a trap.
In Psalm 73, Asaph writes about the people who try to root their happiness in themselves or something else outside of God. I’ll start at verse 6. He says:
Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
7 Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
8 They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
9 They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.
And then later, in verses 18 and 19, he writes about what God has done when He lets the wicked people have happiness in earthly things:
Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
19 How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
Asaph’s point here is that it’s not safe to look for happiness apart from God. Looking for happiness in something like ice cream is like a slippery slope.
Secret 2: We can only find true satisfaction in knowing God.
Asaph knew that looking to the world for satisfaction doesn't work, because the world is broken. He knew that he couldn’t look to himself for satisfaction either, because he had an unclean heart. The only perfect source of contentment was God Himself.
In Psalm 73:26, Asaph said, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
This is Secret #2: We can only find true satisfaction in knowing God. Maybe that seems obvious, but it was an important truth for Asaph to accept. We are nothing without God and the forgiveness He offers through His Son, Jesus Christ.
I told you earlier that the perfect relationship we were made to have with God is broken. Well, the beautiful truth is that God loves us too much to leave us hanging.
We had no power to save ourselves from our sin. We could try to conquer our sinful desires, but it would be like trying to throw a rock at the moon with just your human arm. We all fall short. Hundreds of thousands of miles short.
And yet, God sent us His one and only perfect Son to redeem our relationships with Him and give us the eternal lives in heaven that we didn’t deserve. By giving up his perfect life and by miraculously rising from the dead two thousand years ago, Jesus offers grace, mercy, and forgiveness as a free gift to all of us today.
Even in this broken world. Even as we continue to sin. Jesus offers this gift to us for our joy.
How great is God’s grace?
God tells us that His grace is sufficient for us. When a preacher named Charles Spurgeon thought about God’s grace, he thought of a little, thirsty fish who is afraid he might drink the river dry. But the river is huge, and it says, “Drink away, little fish, my stream is sufficient for thee.”
Or a little mouse in a huge granary, who is afraid he might die of starvation after having plenty of food for seven years. “Cheer up, little mouse, my granaries are sufficient for thee.”
What if a single hiker were worried that he should exhaust the oxygen in the atmosphere? We should tell him the atmosphere is more than sufficient for him to breathe away and fill up his lungs for a lifetime.
And it’s the same way with us and God’s grace. This is GOD we’re talking about. His grace is more than enough for all of us. His grace should be where we find our joy.
Sometimes God’s grace is tough love. God will give us weakness to teach us humility. He lets us make mistakes so we can learn wisdom. And as we grow, we can see more and more how richly blessed we are, even in the hard things.
Secret 3: Finding grace and joy always starts with recognizing that we are in need.
Alright, you know that the world’s pleasures are not good places to find joy. You know that God’s grace is the right place to find joy. What’s next? Asaph’s secret #3 is that finding satisfaction in God’s grace always starts with recognizing that we are in need. Finding satisfaction in God’s grace always starts with recognizing that we are in need.
Asaph was able to accept God’s grace because he first realized that he struggled with jealousy and other weaknesses. We can also open our hearts to God’s forgiveness after we recognize our own sins.
You could lie to yourself if you wanted to. You could tell yourself that a bowl of ice cream is all you’ll need to be happy. Or you could tell yourself that you don’t need God’s grace, and you can just rely on yourself to be “good enough.”
But if we put our pride aside for just one moment, we’ll find that no earthly thing can really satisfy us in the long run. And we can’t put our hope in ourselves. Jesus is the only way.
We start to find grace and joy by being honest with ourselves and honest with God.
In Psalm 73:21 and 22, Asaph admitted his problems to God. He said that his soul was “embittered,” he was “brutish and ignorant,” and he even confessed that he “was like a beast” toward God. He was angry.
But after making a diligent search in his heart, he was able to realize how much he needed and loved God, and he was able to worship God with a happy heart. In verses 23 through 26, he says to God:
23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Secret 4: True satisfaction is something you want to share with others.
Asaph knew that he couldn’t find true, lasting joy in the temporal things here on earth. He knew that God’s grace alone was the solution to his deepest problem of sin. And he knew that, in order to accept God’s grace, he would first need to admit that he needed God’s grace.
The fourth and final secret Asaph was reminded of is that true satisfaction is something you want to share with others. Have you ever read a great book or watched an amazing show that made you want to tell all your friends about it?
Asaph felt kind of like that. After reflecting on how amazing it is to know the holy and almighty God, Asaph felt like he could have talked about God all day. I’m going to read Psalm 73:26 again and the last few verses of that psalm. Asaph wrote:
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28 But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.
Even though Asaph knew he was a sinner and he deserved God’s wrath just like other unfaithful people, he got to experience God’s nearness and mercy. This was where he got the satisfaction that you feel in these verses, and this is why he wanted to tell the world what His Savior had done.
Asaph didn’t rejoice because he had a perfect world, perfect life, and perfect, sinless heart. Just like us, Asaph lived in a broken world with a life tainted by sin. Just like us, he fought temptations to look for joy in earthly things instead of God. But he found that true satisfaction came from knowing God.
Asaph recognized that he was made to have a relationship with God, and he not only wanted God in his life—he needed God. He was a broken man in need of God’s love and grace. And he rejoiced even more because he knew how important God was to him. He was so happy that he wanted to share the good news of what God had done.
When your flesh and your heart fail, may you look to God to be the strength of your heart for all your life. Rejoice in the free grace that Christ offers you.
I hope you've enjoyed Eliana's post! I'm so grateful she shared it with us. Let us know in the comments how it resonated with you. And check out my post on Eliana's blog about how the Spider-Verse might be a bit like Christian diversity: https://www.elianathewriter.com/2023/05/diversity-is-like-the-spider-verse/
Hi, I'm Rachel! I'm the author of the posts here at ProseWorthy. Thanks for stopping by!