Hunting for Heroes

My Story with HOPE

Scripture Connection

Genesis 50:20

My grandfather died last week, and I’m sorting out what kind of man he was. It feels particularly complicated right now. The most recent stories are from my mom and her siblings as they talked about how belligerent he had become with the nursing home staff and how rudely he had treated his own children, even cussing at them. Losing control of his schedule, his freedom, and even his body made him miserable and mean. My mom had to set boundaries and stop seeing him, for the sake of her own mental health.

I have difficult stories from childhood, too. I spent years longing for his attention and approval, wondering if I would ever be important enough that he would arrange his schedule to come to my drama performance. Or if our family would ever be included in vacations and holidays.

Like all people, Grandpa was complex . . . sometimes a hero and sometimes a disappointment.

But it’s not all bad. Grandpa was also hardworking. He invested generously in missions and Christian education. He modeled commitment to my grandmother. And I know that, in their retirement years, they prayed for me daily. After years of estrangement, we enjoyed a decade or more of mutual encouragement.

Like all people, Grandpa was complex—a mix of virtues and vices. He was sometimes a hero and sometimes a disappointment. If we open the Bible looking for heroes, we’ll be disappointed too. The Bible doesn’t paint people in one dimension. We usually see them, warts and all. After all, they’re human. Sometimes they do the right thing. Sometimes they don’t.

Genesis offers dozens of examples. Here are a few:

  • God provided Eve as the solution to Adam’s loneliness and ally in caring for creation. But she let herself be deceived and encouraged Adam to rebel (Genesis 2:15–3:21).
  • Noah accomplished a remarkable engineering feat by obeying God but then got drunk and cursed his grandson (Genesis 6:9-22; 9:18-28).
  • Abraham trusted God by following him to an unknown land (12:1-3), but then he lied about his wife and let another man take her . . . twice! (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-18)
  • Sarah experienced a miracle pregnancy in her nineties but abused her servant repeatedly (Genesis 16:1-15; 21:1-5).
  • Joseph acted arrogantly as a young man but, with God’s help, saved his family and the entire land of Egypt (Genesis 37:1-10; 45:1-25).
  • Judah sold his brother into slavery but later put his own life on the line to save his brother (Genesis 37:26-28; 44:1-34).

Rather than discouraging me, the Bible’s honest portrayal of human foibles gives me hope. God created us with tremendous potential and remarkable dignity. Who we are and what we do matters. At the same time, our failures cannot undermine God’s purposes.

The whole story of the Bible begins with a portrait of humans as the crown of creation, appointed by God to rule the earth. All of us—men and women—are God’s image. We possess a status and dignity that sets us apart from the animal world. We have the marvelous privilege of participating in God’s work. And yet, when we mess things up, God still makes things right.

“Rather than discouraging me, the Bible’s honest portrayal of human foibles gives me hope.”

My grandfather wasn’t perfect. He hurt me deeply. But in Genesis, I learn that God works in and through flawed people.

Just so, the world we inherited sometimes looks like God’s intentions. Usually, it doesn’t. Genesis casts a vision for God’s plan to restore all things so that we will experience the world as he intended—as a place to commune with God and each other as we care for the world he made.

Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 124:8, NLT

But even when we experience the broken state of our world, we have the joy of walking with God. He is the true hero of the story. Unlike the people in Genesis or our families, God is reliable and always good. He is never overwhelmed by our weakness or failure. His call for us to join his work rings clear, even though you and I have a whole lot more growing to do.

I don’t need my grandfather to be perfect. My hope does not rest on him. My extraordinary hope is in the extraordinary God who made heaven and earth. God invites broken people—people like you and me—to join him in his work to restore all things.


How can you identify with the people you meet on the pages of Genesis?

What do their failures teach you about God?


Picture your own complexity. Think through what you’ve done in your life that you’re proud of and what you’ve done that you may feel ashamed of. How have you experienced God restoring all things through the good and the bad of your life?   


is an author, speaker, blogger, and YouTuber and serves as associate professor of Old Testament at Biola University in California.

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