“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” — Romans 12:2
Collateral Beauty is somewhat reminiscent of the classic, “A Christmas Carol”, with the visiting of three spirits to awaken a deadened soul. Viewers are brought back to the themes of love, time and death through the supporting characters and the visitations Howard encounters. As Howard’s three friends try and make meaning of his pain, I was also reminded of Job in the Bible and his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, who wanted to share his grief, offering empty words, always coming up short. Like Job’s friends, Howard’s friends come up empty when trying to deal with the harshest realities of life.
In addition to love, time and death, this movie exposes us to our discomfort with feeling unresolved. Howard’s friends personify our natural desire to quickly get past hurt and disappointment, especially when it’s unexplainable. Collateral Beauty attempts to find meaning in the hard things of life by suggesting there is residual “beauty” in all things. Unfortunately, this does not resolve anything. So what do we do as Christians when things seem to go unresolved? Look at the story of Lazarus found in John 11.
Lazarus was sick. Really sick. In fact, he was close to death. So Mary and Martha called for the one man that could resolve the problem by healing Lazarus – their friend Jesus. But when messengers gave Jesus the message about Lazarus, Jesus stayed where He was for two more days. But it is not what people thought. Jesus intentionally delayed going to help, saying “… it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4). Jesus had a plan to resolve the situation. But all Mary and Martha knew was their brother had died and Jesus didn’t come in time. They were disappointed and they both told Him so.
Jesus knew their pain. He felt it too. In fact, the Bible says that Jesus wept with them. After they made their way to the tomb, and when they arrived, Jesus requested that the stone in front of the opening be removed. The sisters were worried about the smell and reminded Jesus that their brother had been dead for four long days.
Have you ever been disappointed with God’s apparent lack of response or lack of resolution? It’s disheartening when you know God could immediately change the outcome of your circumstances, but He seems tardy or even absent. So there you sit, in the pain, grief and fear while God delays. That is how Martha felt, but a few minutes later a dead man walked out of the tomb. (John 11:44) The reality is that Jesus had never ignored their cry for help. He didn’t disregard their pain. He hadn’t abandoned them. He had a plan that included a delay.
What we can learn from this story is to not give up, to not accept grief as our lot in life and to expect God to turn our mourning into joy, right on time.
- How would you encourage someone who feels that God has forgotten his or her needs?
- When God answers our prayers in a way other than we desired, how do we know He still hears and loves us? What will you do when God’s answer to your prayers is different from what you desired?