We moderns have been trained to decouple tragedy and beauty. We view suffering and worship as incompatible truths. Mourning and loss may come to us, but when we experience the discomfort of sorrow, we seek escape as quickly as possible. With comfort upon comfort available to us, in the United States anyway, we flee from hardship. We are unapologetic escapists consuming alcohol, pornography, food, or exercise to numb our pain. We use whatever means available to help us to “feel better”.
The Bible paints a different picture. Mourning is a given reality of life and when we read God’s Words, we see real people dealing with honest emotion. When writing lament, the psalmists leaned into their pain and brought it before the Restorer Himself. In the first chapter of Job after hearing of the loss of his children, servants, and livestock, Job shaved his head, tore his robes, fell to the ground, and worshipped. Too often, we escape.
Early in Mel Gibson’s movie Braveheart, we see “the gift of a thistle.” We see beauty in tragedy. A young boy stands alone looking upon the rocky graves of his father and brother. Trying to be strong, his body shakes, almost imperceptibly, as shovels full of dirt fall upon the only family that he knows.
A young Murron turns back and pulls away from her mother. She breaks the stalk of a single purple thistle, a perfect image of beauty intermingled with pain, and walks to William. Her innocence and beauty carrying light to a lost boy.
Their eyes meet as she hands him the flower. For a moment, he looks upon the flower and then back to her. Tears fill his eyes, but he holds her gaze, and her his. A simple gesture bringing beauty to sorrow, bringing connection to loneliness.
Not a word was exchanged in the scene, but James Horner’s music speaks clearer than any tongue. It is the music that makes this scene transcendent. It is the music that helps me to see the beauty of tragedy. Many of us are too far-sighted to see God’s beautiful work in the midst of sorrow.