September 23, 1997
Fairy tales are supposed to end with “and they lived happily ever after.” Snow White’s story did. She rose from a deep sleep, married her prince and conquered the spell of an evil witch.
Cinderella’s story did. She sweetly waited until her cruel step-sisters ran out of schemes and the shoe was slipped on her foot. She too married her prince and lived happily ever after.
Is this not the desire of our hearts? We long to rise above the evil forces that threaten us. We want to live, laugh and love in style and grace, conquering all with our life of merit. We wish to look good, be appreciated, even gain the adoration of commoners and the respect of kings.
Diana, Princess of Wales, lived out those fairy tale dreams for us. She stood against evil forces with tough endurance and conquered her critics with outpoured compassion. She was kind to suffering people, both publically and privately. She touched thousands with her generosity.
Diana also lived in public our private sorrows. The inner heartaches we long to tell others but experience alone, she lived openly. Our sorrows and pressures, felt within our broken hearts, were on display in her life. The world knew her hurts. She became our champion.
Such a life was not supposed to end in one unexpected moment. Couldn’t we, just this once, turn the clock back and make it right? Couldn’t we revise her final chapter and move it from the middle of the book to the end where it belonged, in the happily ever after?
Personal sorrow over this tragic, too-soon ending seems fitting yet its depth surprises us. Why are we so sad? Is it because the fairy tale did not end the way it was supposed to? Is it that we have lost our stand-in, the one who represents our longing for the world to know and sympathize with our broken places? Do we ache inside because youth and beauty should never fade or be yanked from those who have it? Does this dying bring home to us the reality that life is not fair and death turns its back on no one?
Many of her loyal and grieving public express their opinion that Diana is in that final resting place of bliss. Who can say? Some evangelicals would demand a “public profession of faith.” Others might say her life displayed the qualities of a person who understands and knows personally the kindness and mercy of God. Her vulnerability did resemble the meekness of the One who would “never break a bruised reed nor quench a smoldering wick.” Certainly Diana’s charitable actions put many professing Christians to shame.
Do those qualities ensure a princess a place in heaven? Most of the world thinks so but the Word of God says not. It says eternal life is a gift from God, not a reward for the way we live. It is a gift given in a personal relationship of faith in Jesus Christ. While extraordinary goodness is sometimes seen in others simply because they have been made in the image of God, the goodness that pleases God flows from a transforming, personal relationship with Him and is a result of Christ’s presence in us. The Bible says, “Whoever has Christ has life” along with all the attributes of grace found in Him.
Knowing that, I prayed for Diana in the hour before she died. I asked the Author of life to grant her life—not length of days for that is the minor kind, but eternal life. I know only He can give it—and that He gives it as an act of mercy to the helpless. Inside that twisted metal executioner, Diana was never more helpless nor would she ever be more vulnerable.
If God said “Yes” to that prayer (and no one knows if He did or perhaps had already given her His gift), then the People’s Princess has found her true Prince. She is with Him, enjoying His love and the only true “happily ever after.”