“Why are you cast down, my soul, why groan within me? Hope in God; I will praise him still, my savior and my God.” Psalm 42
There is much in this world that will cause our souls to be cast down. Relationship issues. Financial issues. Health issues. Job and career issues, or school issues for those who are still students. Turn on the news and it seems the world is going to hell in a hand basket, with little relief in sight.
What sense does it make to hope? Who are we fooling in continuing to praise God in the midst of all the groaning in our world and in ourselves?
I recently watched the movie, “Greater,” starring Neal McDonough. It’s a movie based on the life of Brandon Burlsworth, a football player for the Arkansas Razorbacks. He was a walk-on to the Razorback camp and, after much hard work and dedication and, he earned a starting spot on the team and a scholarship to the school. After being named All-American, he graduated with a Masters degree (the first Arkansas student to graduate with a Masters degree while playing football) and was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts. All set to sign a lucrative contract with the Colts that would have set his financially strapped family up for life, he was killed in an automobile accident at the age of 22.
Burlsworth, however, made such an impact on his family, his community and his team that an outpouring of, first grief, and then charity resulted from his untimely death. His number was retired by the Razorbacks, only the second number in their history to be retired. A trophy was dedicated in his honor to the most impressive walk-on player in college football for any given year, and two charities were set up in his name: “Burls Kids,” which makes it possible for underprivileged kids to attend Razorback and Colts games, and “Eyes of the Champion,” which provides eye care to children in need (Burlsworth famously wore a monstrous pair of horned-rimmed glasses when he played). Most important, Burlsworth left a legacy of Christian faith and devotion to hard work that remains an inspiration to all. Coach Houston Nutt of the Razorbacks coined the phrase, “Do it the Burls way,” which means to do it the right way, even when no one is looking.
Despite the man set-backs he suffered, Brandon Burlsworth kept his eyes on the prize and his hope in the Lord. He was overweight and had no innate talent as a football player when he first stepped on the Arkansas practice field. He was red-shirted his first year, which pretty much ensured he would have no scholarship his second year, and was ridiculed for his Christian faith and strict moral discipline by his team mates. Nevertheless, in the face of so much that might cast down his soul, Burlsworth continued to hope in the Lord and praise his God. And, in the face of his death, his family, team mates and community did so, too. Burlsworth’s tombstone reads, “Our loss is great, but God is greater.”
The movie, “Greater,” will win no Oscars, and it really doesn’t deserve to. The acting is hoakum, with the notable exceptions of Neal McDonough, who plays Brandon’s older brother, Marty, and Nick Searcy, who plays a farmer who is really an embodiment of the devil, tempting Marty to abandon his faith in response to Brandon’s tragic death. McDonough and Searcy are both spectacular, and their back-and-forth makes the movie worthwhile, along with just learning Burlsworth’s story. At one point, when Marty is near the bottom of his pit, his mother explains that his inability to come to grasps with his brother’s death is a result of his only seeing a part of the picture. Like Brandon’s position as offensive line guard, he can only see a small part of the picture of any given play. But, he does his job well, he holds true to his responsibilities, and he trusts that the other players around him will do the same. The larger picture of winning eventually reveals itself. Marty then looks down at the high school football field where his brother once played. His former team mates have placed flowers on the field as a memorial for Brandon in the shape of the words, “We trust.” Trust in God is the foundation of hope.
We only see a small part of this world’s story. God sees it all. It is for us to remain faithful, to keep to our responsibilities and to trust that God will be true to His promises. Eventually, the whole picture will be revealed to us, and we will glory in the face of God’s majestic plan.
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.” 1 Corinthians 13:12
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.