I'll pause a moment to let that sink in.
We may endure hardships, deaths, illnesses, unpaid bills, unemployment, disappointed expectations. We may feel stuck, hopeless, and hapless. This fuzzy darkness sneaks into our periphery vision.
So we turn to art--to books, movies, TV, paintings, sculpture, theater, music. Bad art gives us merely an escape, or worse, a pornographic fantasy that leaves us empty and wanting more, more money, more house, more success, more romance.
But, ah, art at its best, this art engenders understanding, helps us work through mysteries, gives hope in the injustices. I think of Wally Lamb's The Hour I First Believed wrestling alongside us with violence and injustice--the horror of school shootings, the randomness of Katrina, the monsters and victims in us all. And in the book, the protagonist turns to Picasso's Guernica to work out the place of God in such a terrible world. I think of the poetry of Habbakuk: how long, O Lord? And his shock at the Lord's answer.
I think of Quick Lamb in Cloudstreet who, by entering into the suffering, turns it into dancing. I think of the hope Pearly finds in the midst of grief in The Living End, of the forgiveness in Rembrandt's Prodigal Son, of the victory in Mahler's Resurrection Symphony.
Perhaps art mimics Christianity in this way. Jesus offers not a way of escape from the hardship but a hope through it, knowing that this is not the end. He has the final victory. He will usher in peace on earth, goodwill toward men.
We exist in Advent, a time of waiting, for the fullness of the Messiah. And we, with a peace that transcends all understanding, work for his kingdom of peace and justice, mourning with the hurting, loving the unloveable, offering God's hope to the suffering.
Art can show us this advent season and this final redemption, that we may endure and then, in the power of the Holy Spirit, grasp joy, hope, and contentment.
Heather A. Goodman prays that her short stories and novels bring this sort of comfort to others so that rather than escaping life, they may face it and praise God.