Redemption is one of my favorite themes to encounter in fiction . . . and in real life! An essay in the Oxford Handbook of English Literature defines redemption this way:
“Redemption is a powerful and uplifting theme that acknowledges the human potential to succeed after having failed. Theological understandings of it focus on how humans can restore their relationships with God despite having fallen from grace into sin. Literature takes the same theme of brokenness and renewal and places it in the context of life on earth.”
I believe the best stories are those that include a seemingly irredeemable set of circumstances that is ultimately transformed into a story of hope, restoration, and renewal. It’s always so incredible to read about a broken individual who has been made whole again, or about a floundering relationship that has been brought back to life.
Scripture reveals that God, too, has a heart for the theme of redemption. The Bible is filled with powerful, unexpected redemptions stories.
- Joseph, Jacob’s arrogant young son, is thrown into a pit to die, then sold into slavery, accused of committing rape, and locked in jail—only to be raised up as Pharaoh’s right-hand man, responsible for saving an entire people group during a devestating famine.
- Ruth, a penniless widow living in a foreign land, risks her reputation and even her life to seek assistance from a highly respected family acquaintance and ultimately becomes his wife, as well as one of only two women to have a book of the Bible named after her.
- David, a lowly shepherd boy, becomes one of the greatest kings in history, and though his life is marred by sin and poor decisions, he is still acclaimed as a man after God’s own heart and is one of the key figures in the lineage of Jesus.
- Jesus was born to an unwed teenager, raised as a carpenter, and spent a mere three years in ministry, yet His story is the greatest redemption story of all—the Almighty King took on the appearance of a man and humbled Himself to death on a cross, after which He was exalted to the highest place and given the name above all names.
While our own individual stories are not recorded in Scripture, we too are part of God’s Big Story that began with Creation and will end with the glorious return of Christ. Each of our lives is woven into the tapestry that is His Redemption Story for His people.
It has been such a blessing to see the amazing ways God has redeemed brokenness in my own life, as He rescues my missteps and mistakes and uses them to draw me into His arms. I could fill entire pages recounting the instances of personal pain that God has reshaped into winsome stories of His love for me. As I’ve matured in my faith, I’ve grown more comfortable enduring painful trials because I look forward to seeing how God will take my troubling circumstances and remold them into a story far better than the one I would have written for myself.
I do not believe God causes pain, and I have no doubt He can construct incredible stories without it. But I can’t deny that stories involving hardship of some kind are that much more poignant, memorable, and meaningful because the darkest, lowest points within these stories highlight the beauty and miraculousness of the happy ending. God is a big fan of crafting stories so inexplicable that it’s impossible for for onlookers to deny His divine presence within them.
Psalm 107:1-2 calls attention to God’s penchant for redemption and reminds us to stop and give thanks to our good, good God. Because of His enduring love, He redeemed humanity through the birth, life, and death of His son. And He redeems each and every one of us time and again. He is a God of second chances, a God who rescues, a God who cries with us in our pain, a God who creatively repurposes our stories into something more glorious than we could have imagined.