When distress, heartache, and weakness overwhelm us

Are you distressed this morning? Does your heart ache over troubles in this world? Are you confronted at every turn by your weakness? Do you wonder if God is punishing you because of your failures and shortcomings? Perhaps you think others look at you sideways and think to themselves, “He’s got no one but himself to blame.”

Two thoughts, from God’s lips to your ears:

— Someone else has already carried this burden; you don’t need to shoulder it yourself. People thought Messiah was being punished for his own sins, when in fact “he was beaten so we could be whole; he was whipped so we could be healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5) Give over your weak, weary, burdened heart to Jesus. Why would anyone continue to lug around a load that someone else already has carried to its destination? Jesus offers you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

— Your suffering is not meaningless. In the Upside-Down Kingdom, troubles are an opportunity for joy. In the moment, the weight is hard to bear, but the Lord will use the trouble to refine your faith and increase your endurance, so his work in you can be completed. (James 1:2-4) And when you suffer because you are seeking the Kingdom, the pain takes on a cosmic significance. Paul said he was glad to suffer for the advancing Kingdom, because that meant he was participating in the continuing sufferings of Christ himself on behalf of his body, the church. (Colossians 1:24)

Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord himself said we will have many trials and sorrows here on earth. He told us that so we can have peace in him. When it feels like the world is about to overcome you, Jesus whispers in your ear: “Take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

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A vintage American hero

Wonder Woman” is an old-school superhero movie. Diana Prince is a vintage American hero, like Superman was before the studios corrupted him. She is, of course, a Christ figure. Also, of course, a Christ figure untroubled by some of the specifics of the actual Christ.

But it’s excellent storytelling — and high-minded. Plenty of Gospel elements, including a creation story, paradise ruined by a fallen god, human nature torn between good and evil impulses, and deliverance by a human who is more than human.

The tagline, “Justice begins with her,” speaks of Gospel justice: deliverance and redemption, and not just kicking bad-guy butt. The core message can serve as a vehicle for profound discussion: Both good and evil wrestle in the human soul. We each must make our choices. Redemption is not about what we deserve, but about what we believe — and Wonder Woman believes in love. (Again, untroubled by fact that we cannot save ourselves.)

Patty Jenkins ought to get Best Director. Allan Heinberg and Zack Snyder should be serious contenders for the screenplay and story honors. The plot development is deliberate. Early on, it would be almost ponderous, except for the action scenes. There’s nothing ground-breaking about the effects: Think The Matrix meets X-Men. John Boy might say Diana is Neo, but with breasteses.

The only thing remotely annoying about the movie is the obligatory Hollywood nod toward last-wave feminism: Men are necessary for procreation, but not pleasure. But they resisted the temptation to make Diana a gay icon. There is wonder and innocence in the way her heart stirs with awakening love for the male lead character, Steve Trevor.

Also on the upside, Trevor is a true-hero good guy, and there’s a wack Scotsman in a kilt and an Indian with an Old West repeater rifle. The bonus for me was the laugh-out-loud moment where the Amazon queen stops for a worshipful moment of thanking the gods, who we have just been told are all dead, except for the evil god of war, Aries.

I saw “Dunkirk” this week too. It’s a muddled mess. “Wonder Woman” left my heart swelling with emotion. I would love to see it on IMAX, and when it hits the stores, I’ll be buying the Blu-ray.

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