Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Funny People

"...in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health..."

In Funny People, we find out right away that famous comic George Simmons (Adalm Sandler) has been diagnosed with an untreatable blood disorder - not a very funny circumstance, to be sure.

Before this revelation, George Simmons seemed to live life to the fullest - making a lot of money, staring in several successful movies, living in an opulant mansion, being connected to all sorts of celebraties, taking different girls to bed each night, and so forth. But upon discovering the news that he was dying, his life screeched to a halt. He started to re-examine what he had done and began to make amends for the mistakes of his past.

He decides to return to his roots by doing stand-up comedy like he used to - and to do this well, he grooms an up-and-coming comic named Ira Wright (Seth Rogan) to write his new jokes but also to accompany him on this final leg of the journey. Upon Ira's advice, he strengthens the bonds between himself and his celeb friends. In effect, he becomes a new man.

In my work in the church, I have seen so many people come back to God and rediscover a new version of themselves when times are rough. Sickness, job loss, grieving, economic hardships, persecution, and uncertainty can bring people into a deeper relationship with God and help them become a better person in the process. The image of God as a gentle comforter, or a "good shepherd" who looks out for his sheep, is very important to those who are struggling through life.

SPOILER ALERT: But what happens when times are good? In Funny People, George finds out that the experimental medicine he was taking is actually working - and he is cured. Sadly, this news makes George revert back to his old ways, even though he claims he is a changed man. He falls back into old habits and rejects those who are trying to help him.

In the Christian wedding ceremony, the officiant asks the bride and groom whether or not they will be with each other in all circumstances, "...in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health..." Using that popular phrase and applying it to our relationship with God, are we with Him in good times and in bad times, in sickness and in health, when we're down on our luck and when we're doing well, when we're alone and when we're surrounded by friends...?

It's common to come to God and be a stronger person when life isn't going so well. But it's uncommon to return to the gospel and become honorable and just when life is great.

Sadly, our churches do not have enough rituals to celebrate the good times and to, as St. Paul says in Romans 12: 15, "laugh with those who laugh and weep with those who weep." We have great pastoral care to comfort the broken-hearted and to tend to the sick, but do we have the tools to be with people when things are going smooth?

Regardless, I urge you to come to God and be a part of a faith community even when things are fantastic. George Simmons missed the point and took the easy route by coming to his senses when things were rough while falling into bad habits when things looked great. Don't repeat George Simmons' mistakes.

Instead, let us pray for each other that we may turn to God in all circumstances, at all times, and in all ways.

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