I responded to an offer to try the Lifetime Movie Club on a trial basis. I thought this might be good entertainment during these days with few evening commitments. I’d understood LMC was a channel overflowing with happy programming. After viewing a few episodes, however, I realized something must be wrong. These movies are filled with double-dealing, disappointment and deceit.
A friend enlightened me.
“No, it’s Hallmark that has the happy movies,” he said.
I was wrong. This month I have the channel of real life!
I suppose that’s what we’re all experiencing these days. Real life means no worship, no school and no hugging people we love. We pray this terrible contagion will be over soon and we can return to real life.
But, actually, real life is not always happy. Real life has divorce, drunk driving, hunger, disease, abuse, financial crises and death. Real life will continue after COVID-19 is a distant memory.
I remember a Billy Graham film from long ago entitled, “For Pete’s Sake.” It was influential in my teen-aged years and a film that churches used to screen on Sunday nights for a change of pace. This movie tells the story of Pete, a new Christian. Pete’s life was filled with good things, good humor and new discoveries until his wife had a seizure and died.
Of course, Pete was devastated to lose the love of his life. He confronted his pastor: “To think I trusted God, and this is the way he deals,” he said.
Pete had to come to terms with real life. And though some critics claimed otherwise, the Graham organization didn’t ignore this, but taught us the truth about discipleship way back in the ’60s — being a Christian doesn’t shield us from the tragedies of life.
Jesus insisted that it rains on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45).
We don’t live in a dream world. However, we know being a Christian means we have a new perspective on tragedy. We believe God strengthens us in difficulty and uses it for ultimate good. Nor does he abandon us. We also believe we have new partners in the faith community to love us through pain.
The late Lewis Drummond was among my favorite seminary teachers. I remember a comment he made one day in class.
“When has God ever removed his people from tribulation?” he asked. “Instead, his promise is to see us through it.”
Who knows what trials await us in the days after COVID-19? I don’t choose to be a fatalist because by nature I’m an optimist. I believe God will see us through, that he has a good plan for his people and in his future kingdom he will set things right.
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church's website is siluriabaptist.com.