The Great Perhaps

Written by Matt Benton, Pastor of Bethel United Methodist Church, Woodbridge, VA

Trees with light coming through. A Voice in the Wilderness

Isaiah 52: 7-10

How beautiful upon the mountains
    are the feet of a messenger
    who proclaims peace,
    who brings good news,
    who proclaims salvation,
    who says to Zion, “Your God rules!”

Listen! Your lookouts lift their voice;
    they sing out together!
    Right before their eyes they see the Lord returning to Zion.

 Break into song together, you ruins of Jerusalem!
The Lord has comforted his people and has redeemed Jerusalem.
 The Lord has bared his holy arm in view of all the nations;
    all the ends of the earth have seen our God’s victory.


“I go to seek a Great Perhaps.”  – Francois Rabelais

In John Green’s first book, Looking for Alaska, the main character, Miles “Pudge” Halter, enrolls in a boarding school inspired by the last words of Francois Rabelais.  He is off in search of a better life, a more exciting life, he’s in search of more to life than what he has found up to that point.  He is off to seek his Great Perhaps.

At boarding school he encounters the titular Alaska and, because it’s a young adult novel involving teenagers, is smitten.  Alaska has been taken by someone’s last words as well, in her case Simon Bolivar: “How will I ever get out of this labyrinth?!”  Alaska’s life has been marked by suffering and she is forever searching for a way out of the labyrinth of suffering, a way to be free of the pain of what she has done to others and what others have done to her; a way to be free of the shame others heaped upon her; a way to be free, a way to be forgiven, a way to be whole.

Sadly, Alaska is not able to find a way out of the labyrinth in this life, forcing Miles and his friends to grapple with her loss and their own suffering.  Miles’ struggle mirrors Green’s own as he remarks that as he was writing the novel, he was working out for himself whether it was possible to live a hopeful life in a world full of suffering.  It is a question that we must all ask of ourselves, and the answer to which will ultimately determine our view of the world, of life, of the cosmos.

Into our own searching, into our own wandering of the labyrinth of suffering comes a voice.  A voice proclaiming peace and wholeness.  A voice bringing good news to those who long for an escape.  A voice bringing salvation to those searching for hope.  You are loved.  You are redeemed.  You are whole.  You are mine.

Our God comes to us in Jesus Christ to announce that in a world of suffering, in a world of death, in a world of sin, in a world of hurt, our God reigns.  Our God rules.  His presence comforts us and he has defeated the sin, the shame, the hurt, the pain that forms the walls of the labyrinth.  Christ is our Great Perhaps.  Perhaps we don’t have to be defined by our sin.  Perhaps we don’t have to live in shame.  Perhaps we don’t have to be held captive to death.  Perhaps we can hope.

In writing about his first book years later, John Green said, “I was born into Bolivar’s labyrinth, and so I must believe in the hope of Rabelais’ Great Perhaps.”  We have all, I’m sure, been born into the labyrinth of suffering.  We are all familiar with the sting of sin and death.  But perhaps!  Perhaps that doesn’t have to rule us.  Perhaps the labyrinth isn’t our home.  Perhaps our place is with God, in His light and love forever.

I, too, have been born into a labyrinth of suffering.  In 2005, when I was 19, the same year this book was published, one of my best friends died in a car crash. And I was thrust headlong into the labyrinth of suffering.  But I was fortunate to have messengers come to me bringing the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Bringing a word of hope. Bringing the grace and mercy and love of our God. 

I choose to believe in Christ’s Great Perhaps.  Beautiful are the feet of those who bring this news.  Beautiful on the mountains are those who proclaim to those in the labyrinth of suffering that perhaps there is a way out.

A Voice in the Wilderness: Lent 2024

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