“O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago (Isaiah 25:1).”
I’ve never been a big fan of moviemaker Woody Allen. In fact, I don’t think I have ever watched one of his movies, at least fully.
I was intrigued though when I read a newspaper clip this morning about his latest movie, called “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger”. It describes the characters as “an ensemble of Londoners coping with failing marriage, stymied ambition, the yearning for new relationships and the fear of mortality.” These sound like people a lot of us could relate to, at least in part.
The Hollywood Reporter says that the characters are all seeking shortcuts to happiness. ” Each one thinks that if only X will happen, then I can live happily ever after. But even if that were true, no one has any patience: Each is determined to grab X right away.” This too sounds like many of us today.
The Reporter journalist, Kirk Honeycutt, describes Allen as acting like a devil in this production. He says, “This is Woody in a bemused mood, devilishly complicating his characters’ lives with follies and foibles of their own making until he ties each protagonist into a comic pretzel. Then he takes a tea break.”
However, Honeycutt also says Allen acts likes God with his characters. He writes:
“Since he has moved more or less permanently behind the camera and no longer acts in his films, Allen plays God with his characters much more. They feel more like puppets rather than human beings with natural instincts and lucid senses.
True, the stories here are about people acting irrationally. But you always understood the emotions behind bad behavior in ‘Annie Hall,’ ‘Manhattan’and ‘Hannah and Her Sisters.’ Here decisions get made off-camera or people act with an abruptness, if not a frivolity, that betrays no thought process at all.”
While Woody Allen may seem as if he were both God and the Devil in this movie production, he is neither person as the Bible describes them. First, although Satan does tie people up into knots, his work is not funny at all according to the Scriptures. The Bible say he is a a destroyer of lives (I Peter 5:8).
Furthermore, the God of the Bible is not some remote puppet master way up there. However, it does give accounts of people who certainly felt as if He were. This is another difference between the people in Woody Allen’s new flick and those in the Bible: the biblical folks have real emotions.
Many of the Bible’s descriptions involve people questioning God. For example Abram wonders out loud to God how He intends to reward him as He has just promised when he looks at his circumstances. (Genesis 15:1-2,7-8).
In addition, Job wonders why God has even given him life at all since it has been a miserable trip and he has been blocked at every turn. He rues the day of his birth and groans that what he has feared has come true (Job 3:1-4,23-25).
Jeremiah also bemoans his fate in similar fashion, except that he tells that he had hoped in God and the Lord had not come through for him. He is more forthright in blaming God than Abram or Job. Jeremiah too feels boxed in with no way of escape, but God is his actual enemy (Lamentations 3:1-18).
I think we real humans are both like the characters in Allen’s movie and those in the Bible. We do create our own problems. Modern people also do not think before acting, and cause themselves and others major chaos.
On the other hand, we non-fictional people also cry out to God when we are in trouble and all our hopes and dreams have been smashed. We real humans grieve, complain and blame the Lord for our troubles. We are in deep pain much of the time and still try to cope. The truth is, we are not characters in a Hollywood movie, nor is God the creation of some reporter’s imagination.
God has his own purposes way beyond what a reporter, a blogger, a missionary or anyone else on this planet can imagine.
Could it be Abram missed the true intent of God’s statement about paying Him back for his faithfulness? God had said to him,””Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield (king), your very great reward (Genesis 15:1).” Abram’s true payback was a deep relationship with the Lord himself. What more could a person want?
Is it possible that Job and Jeremiah in their sufferings, in some way neither they nor we could understand, were being protected? The terms “hedged in” and “encircled” can also be used in this sense.
All three biblical men got a taste of what God was about in their suffering. Abram was put into a deep sleep where God gave him a dream of his purposes for his descendants, culminating in the promised Messiah (Genesis 15:17-19). Jeremiah saw that if it weren’t for the love and compassion of God, we would have been consumed (Lamentations 3:22). At the end of his suffering, Job saw thay God’s thoughts and plans were truly wonderful and beyond comprehension (Job 42:3).
A Hollywood product like Woody Allen, Billy Crystal is well known for saying that “You look mahvelous”. In fact, he said in a song that it is better to look “mahvelous”, than to feel “mahvelous”.
In God’s production of our lives, one He planned from eternity, it is better for us to see that He is “mahvelous” than for us to feel “mahvelous”. The experiences of Abram, Jeremiah and Job show that there are no shortcuts to knowing the wonders of God. We real humans have to go through suffering in this life to know God.
The hope of the Christian is that God is preparing us to know and live with Him for eternity. When we get to heaven, then God can say to us, “You Look Mahvelous!” because He had made us like Himself, in His image. It will make all the pain worth it.