Long-term friendships are especially dear to me because I think it is so amazing that, in this day and age, we can keep connections with those people who were so important to us many years in the past when we were mere children. One longtime friend of mine (a former girlfriend for a short period back in the days when I was a painfully shy young teenager) is now among my Facebook friends. This week, she shared a posting that was themed on the old hymn “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” This song was used in the soundtrack of the 2010 remake of “True Grit” in which Jeff Bridges masterfully reprised the role originally played by John Wayne in the 1969 original of a hard-drinking, gruff, tough, courageous, and exceptionally honest lawman who helped a young girl track down the murderer of her father. In the 1969 original, the movie was more light-hearted with a comedic tone, but the 2010 remake was more serious, profound, and even dark, showing a portrayal of life that can be hard, ugly, gritty, and seemingly hopeless.
But despite the dark tone, the director brilliantly worked in a persistent theme of hope, built around the soundtrack’s most prominent song, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms. The tentative, quiet melody of the hymn was played softly at the beginning of the movie at the poignant moment of tragedy in which Mattie Ross’s father laid crumpled, dead on the dark road in front of his own home, on a gloomy, snowy evening, while his murderer selfishly and frantically sought escape, riding his horse furiously down the road, leaving his victim alone on the cold ground. It would be hard to imagine hope in that moment of stark, harsh, shocking, grief as a loved one was murdered in cold blood, cruelly ripped away from you. Yet, as the plaintive, soft melody seemed to suggest, the quiet, strong, peaceful presence of God’s Spirit is there with us even in those horrible moments of grief, tragedy, pain, chaos, and hopelessness.
He is a sure and faithful presence, never leaving us, nor forsaking us (Hebrews 13:5), no matter what happens (Isaiah 43:2). And there could be no truer friend, always there in every difficult moment of our lives, giving us those strong arms that we can lean on when we need strength, even when it seems as if everyone else in the world has deserted us.