The hyperbole of fairy tale that is The Princess Bride has long provided fodder for sermon illustrations and Christian analogies. Themes like hope, perseverance, faithfulness, justice, rescue and resurrection have clear links with the gospel message. But I have also found it helpful in thinking about disappointment with God.
In the last two weeks I’ve spoken with a number of people who have expressed a feeling of abandonment by God. Whether it comes from explicit suffering or from feeling like God is distant, they wonder whether they can trust him. After all, he’s not who they thought he was.
I wonder whether Buttercup feels the same way about Westley after his return. After all, when she first fell in love with him, he was a quietly spoken farm boy who responded to her every wish. After a long absence, he returns sporting a new confidence and with it, a severity. Though he is back, she does not recognise him – there is far more to this man than she has seen before or remembers. I wonder whether this is what happens for many in their Christian walk. They’re introduced to God as the one who will do anything to save them, but struggle to come to terms with his seeming absence or inactivity or severity.
And yet it is precisely Westley’s complexity, his return from life as the Dread Pirate Roberts, that gives Buttercup the confidence to vow, “I will never doubt again” and Westley the basis to agree, “There will never be a need”. It is not that Westley will never endanger Buttercup again. After all, he takes her straight into the Fire Swamp and later on she’s declared “man and wife” with the awful Prince Humperdinck! But she can have unwavering confidence in him and his love for her, even when she thinks he is dead, because he is bigger than her original conception of him.
This must be the same attitude that sustains a relationship with God. We know of his love for us because he has lived among us and died to rescue us. And yet actions that to us seem inconsistent with this need not cause anxiety. Because God does not always fit into our expectations, we see his bigness. And that ought to give us confidence in him and in his love for us. There is never a need to doubt God either, not because things are not hard but because he does not change.
Like Westley, God’s answer is not always “As you wish” but to think that he does not love us is still ‘Inconceivable’!
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.