Last week my family saw Mockingjay, the latest movie in The Hunger Games series based on the young adult novels written by Suzanne Collins. On their surface these stories of a future world, where excess and oppression reigns, are about conflict, power, and struggle. But at their essence they’re stories about hope and human survival. Themes like these glow vividly whenever they’re set against a backdrop of darkness and devastation.
Perhaps this is one reason many of the stories that have most captivated our popular culture in recent years have featured life in dystopian societies similar to the one featured in The Hunger Games series. These are scenes for the great heroic actions we love to imagine–and for the everyday acts of survival that can inspire us just as deeply. In many ways human resourcefulness, strength, and self-sacrifice are at their most brilliant in times of crisis. So ironically, while such settings feature the worst versions of our world and the most dire consequences of human choices, they can also show humanity at its best.
This is one of the reasons I like many of these stories. But my more significant reason is that such stories can give such a clear picture of human potential without God’s grace, redemption, and intervention–our potential for selfishness, self-destruction, and cruelty. This is a part of the gospel truth, and we need to be reminded that on our own we are doomed. Sure, religion is often present in these stories–but most are missing the presence of God; others feature weak, corrupt, or malevolent gods. In such stories God is not good, all-powerful, loving, and interested in the lives of people. And life in these worlds reflects what’s missing. Such stories contain much more truth than any that feature godless utopian societies. Life simply is not good without God. We don’t have it in us.
Yet while such stories hold truth, they cannot hold the whole truth. And while they appeal to our heroic natures, few if any of us would choose to live in a dystopian world, a world where little good can be found and humans regularly exercise our full capacity for evil. Yet ironically, many of us tend to go to such places in our minds when we dwell on the future and its possibilities.
How often do you ask the question “What if?” How often does it lead to you an imaginary future where only bad things are possible, where everything falls apart and God doesn’t care? How often does it cause you to picture a future where God is altogether absent–or where he is cruel?
What does the future represent for you? Is it a place of anxiety and dread? Does its unknowability cause cramps in your control muscles?
Do you imagine a future essentially without the presence of a good, loving, and unimaginably powerful God? Is that the future you really believe in?
Consider seeing it this way instead: The future is possibility. It is not here, it is not ours. It is not good or bad in itself. It simply is possibility. And the possibility for good, joy, and provision is just as strong as the possibility for pain, disappointment, and heartache.
God is the only one capable of encompassing all of history and the future as well. He is the beginning and the end, the past and the future of all things, “the Alpha and the Omega, who is, and who was, and who is to come” (Revelation 1:8). He cares about the future–do a search for “the future” on Bible Gateway to glimpse how much God cares about our future.
Even better news: the future is certain. God knows it, rules over it, and is already there.
© 2015 Amy Simpson.