Sad Movies, Death, and How Life Wins

photo by thefixer via flickr creative commons

photo by thefixer via flickr creative commons

I spent my night crying. The kind of crying that just seeps out of you before you even realize it, and then streams down your face, spilling all over you in a way that's not at all glamorous. It was ugly crying at its finest. And it was all because of a movie.

I knew what I was getting myself into. I read the book. I ugly cried at that, too. For some reason, though, I decided it was time to watch The Fault in Our Stars, the movie version.

If you didn't read it and haven't seen it, here's a quick synopsis (also known as a spoiler alert, so stop reading now if you don't want to know the ending).

A girl named Hazel with thyroid and lung cancer meets a boy named Augustus with a more elaborate cancer at a support group for teenagers. They fall in love in a simple and charming way (Hazel famously says "I fell in love the way you fall asleep-- slowly, then all at once.") They take a Make A Wish-type trip to Amsterdam to meet an author they love to ask him questions about what happens after the end of his book, and it turns out to be more of adventure than they expected. They have their first kiss in the Anne Frank house, and everyone around claps for them, it's that precious of a moment. Gus breaks the news to Hazel Grace that his cancer has spread to nearly his entire body, and he's really dying. They get back home, he has a funeral while he's still alive, Hazel reads her eulogy to him that will make you weep, and then...he dies. It wraps up beautifully and painfully, and I cried even as the credits rolled.

Here's the thing. I'm 22, and I've never really experienced death. Nobody close to me has passed away. I've known nobody with cancer. Nobody I love has a serious illness or has been seriously injured in any way.

It's like I've been in a bubble my entire life, with disease and death and disaster kept far away from me. All I could think about as I lay there sobbing at the end of the movie was what am I going to do when somebody in my real life dies? I was a wreck after just a movie about disease and dying, how will I possibly be able to handle the real thing when it comes into my orbit?

I have no idea how I'll handle death. I have no idea what I'll do when the people I love fall sick or grow old or slip away. I have no idea how that pain destroys you, how that heart ache paralyzes you, how that grief must surely envelope you. I have no idea.

All I know is that I have Jesus. All I know is I have the Holy Spirit and a peace that will surpass my greatest understanding. All I know is I have a God who is good through it all. All I know is I have a family and a community that is strong and will surround me endlessly through any storm. All I know is I have faith in a Savior who conquered death so it holds no victory over us, so it can steal nothing from us in the end.

And I know that's enough. I know that death will come. I know that life will end and it won't make sense and I'll feel lost. But I know that good wins, life wins, love wins. I know that God is alive and not at all dead. I know I have life in Him that will never come to an end, although my time on this planet in this body will.

I know death is not the victor. Death comes creeping in like a thief, ready to take a life and steal all joy and leave us feeling like hope is lost. But death doesn't win. Life wins.

Augustus Waters died in The Fault in Our Stars and I cried and cried and cried. When the days come that my beloved ones die, I will cry and cry and cry. But I know that won't be the end. I know there will also be celebrating, and rejoicing, and worshipping a God who offers life after death, hope after loss, joy after mourning, dancing after weeping. And I know it will all be good.