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the tree of life and my suffering friends

December 8, 2011

Linn and I watched Tree of Life two weeks ago. Written and directed by Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line), it is a powerful movie. I found it to be beautiful, provocative and full of depth.

It’s also a very polarizing movie. The film received the highest prize at the Cannes Film Festival but was also booed by many.

What really blew me away about the movie, though, was Malick’s courage. A devout Episcopalian, Malick assumes God’s existence from the beginning of the film. The opening scene uses this quote from the book of Job. God, speaking to Job, asks him this question:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?  When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38)

When I saw that, I thought, “Well, that’s a pretty bold way to get things going.” At some point, I assumed he would back down. He never does.

Throughout the film, he doesn’t so much try to prove the existence of God. Rather, he assumes it to be the case and forces the audience to wrestle with the follow-up question “So what are we supposed to do now?” He does this beautifully and powerfully, but at times he might make you squirm. While watching the movie, I got uncomfortable on several occasions and thought to myself, “Did he really just say that?”

Malick is also courageous for taking on an tremendously difficult question:

How can God be good if there is so much suffering in the world?

Regardless of your beliefs, this is one of the most important questions with which we have to wrestle. Malick approaches this question artistically and wonderfully. But he also tackles it head on.

I have a lot of friends, both Christian and otherwise, who are enduring a lot of pain right now. I know people who are facing financial ruin. I know others who are dealing with past mistakes that are making life right now nearly unbearable. I know others who are going through chemotherapy, some of whom do not have great chances of success. And, with the holidays just around the corner, a lot of people are facing a painful reminder of the brokenness that exists in many of our families.

I would like to think that this film takes our pain and questions seriously. But I also think it does point to real and profound hope that is found in God.

PS Here is a review that helped me navigate through the movie.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 8, 2011 5:05 pm

    THanks! I never even heard about this movie. Will check it out!

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