Gary Kurtz, the producer of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back said in an interview with the LA Times:
I took a master class with Billy Wilder once and he said that in the first act of a story you put your character up in a tree and the second act you set the tree on fire and then in the third you get him down.
There are times in life when it feels like God has put us up in a tree and then set the tree ablaze. We wonder what the heck God is doing. We wonder why he has allowed our bank account to be stripped, or our health to be decimated, or our marriage to go to pieces, or our boss to be such a tyrant, or our children to wander from the faith, or our singleness to continue well past the time our biological clock has gone silent.
We wrestle and grapple with the truth we know in our heads and the ache we feel in our hearts.
And we feel alone. Really, really alone.
But we’re not alone. God has been putting his people up in flaming trees for thousands of years. God promised Abraham a son. Then God put Abraham up into a tree by letting Abraham get older, and older, and older. Finally, when Abraham was 100 years old he had a son. Then God set Abraham’s tree on fire by telling him to sacrifice his son.
God promised to rescue the people of Israel from the clutches of Egypt. Then he put them up into a tree by leading them to the edge of the Red Sea. Then he set their tree on fire by causing the Egyptians to chase after them.
God promised Gideon that he would deliver the Israelites from the hand of the Midianites. Then he put Gideon in a tree and set the tree aflame when he told Gideon that his army would consist of only 300 men.
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Why does God do this? Is he some sort of sick, sadistic storyteller who enjoys inflicting pain on the characters in his stories? No.
God puts us in flaming trees in order to increase our faith in him. He allows our circumstances to become so desperate that when the deliverance comes we can only attribute it to him. He allows us to come to the end of ourselves in order that we’ll trust wholly in him. This is why God said to Gideon:
The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, “My own hand has saved me.”
God won’t let us do any of the boasting. In his kindness, he knocks out our support systems so that we’ll find our support in him. He breaks down our walls of defense to force us to take shelter in him. He puts us into impossible circumstances to prove that he is a God who does the impossible.
Remember, the third act is coming. Deliverance is coming. It may not look like we expected, but it will come. And when the deliverance does come, God will receive all the glory.
And when we’re tempted to doubt God’s goodness, let’s remember that he put his own Son on a tree and then set that tree ablaze with his wrath. If God would do such an incredible thing for us then he will surely deliver us from our troubles.