Paul L. Caron

Sunday, June 9, 2024

A New Book Of Job Movie: ‘If God Loves You, Why Does He Let Me Hurt You?’

Christianity Today Movie Review:  ‘Have You Considered My Servant Kevin?’, by Rebecca Cusey (Blankingship & Keith, Fairfax, VA):

A new film, “The Shift” [available on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, and YouTube], is an entertaining, thoughtful, and cinematically competent retelling of Job.

Movies created for a Christian audience by Christian production houses are historically a mixed bag. Some are decent. Some are embarrassing. Few are truly great. But a new film, The Shift, ... is a promising step for the genre.

The movie presents itself as a retelling of the biblical Book of Job. Although it covers some of the same philosophical ground, you won’t find burnt offerings or camels here. The setting is modern-day—the plot akin to The Matrix meets It’s a Wonderful Life—and the script is a meditation on love and joy as much as inexplicable loss in a chaotic world.

At the center of the story is Kevin (Kristoffer Polaha), a man pulled away from the life he loves into another dimension by a malignant entity called “The Benefactor” (Neal McDonough). Kevin fights to return to his wife, Molly (Elizabeth Tabish), and in the process weighs ideas about suffering, loss, evil, and the God who allows it all. ...

In [writer and director Brock] Heasley’s universe, suffering doesn’t just happen. Rather, the Devil—rebranded, with dark irony, as The Benefactor—has free rein to toy with human beings, sometimes on a whim, sometimes overtly to harm them. He is active, determined, and directly engages with the people he torments.

By contrast, God never shows his face. He is not entirely absent but distant, silent, slow to come to the rescue. Why, asks The Benefactor, if he loves you, does he let me hurt you?

It’s a fair question.

As in Job, there is no simple answer, as if human suffering were a math problem to be solved. To its credit—and unlike some faith-based films given to tidy conclusions and trite endings—The Shift does not try to provide a mathematical proof. Instead, Kevin glimpses a vision of joy and goodness, linked to his love for his wife, which provides him with a reason to remain faithful to God. ...

The Book of Job concludes with God praising Job’s honesty and search for truth while rebuking his erroneous thinking and highlighting how little truth he knows (40:2, 42:7). Here, too, the questions are just as important as the answers. The movie doesn’t take a shortcut to eliminate sorrow in the end—this is not the easy theology of God as spiritual bellhop, handing out happy endings. There is loss, and loss is real, but God-given joy transcends and transforms loss too.

The Book of Job, after all, is poetry. Many have tried and failed to reduce it to if this, then that, to force it into some simple answer, much like the answers Job’s friends tried to provide. The fact is, Job does not make sense until it is lived, breathed. And then it is life itself. The Shift makes a credible effort at putting flesh on these particular questions—this particular poetry.

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