I am a sucker for happy endings. A few years ago I read an early twentieth-century classic in which the main character suffers a fall from the moneyed class into social degradation and a tragic, untimely death. Though I loved elements of the story and the writing, I closed the book in a huff, feeling I had been cheated. After investing precious time and emotional energy into a story about a character I cared about, I discovered there was nothing redemptive about her story. She was doomed from the start.
Though I was surprised by how affronted I felt, I realized where my sense of indignation was coming from: I do not believe in bleak endings.
This world does not always produce happy endings. But as a believer in Christ, I cannot embrace a story that does not allow for the possibility of hope. Hence my addiction to stories with happy endings, like the movie Dolphin Tale.
At the lowest point of the narrative, when all the other characters have fallen into despair about the possibility of saving the life of a dolphin called Winter, a father reminds his son of a poem they used to recite together:
I must down to the seas again,
to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship
and a star to steer her by.1
As the two reminisce, the father says to his son, “Just ’cause we haven’t got to where the star is taking us doesn’t mean it’s the wrong star.” This line is the turning point of the movie. It injects hope and galvanizes the characters to achieve what had seemed impossible only moments earlier.
No matter how bleak things may look, our story is going to end well as long as we trust Christ. The excruciating details of the life we now live are not building toward a tragic ending but toward a redemptive finale in which every one of God’s promises will be fulfilled.
No wonder we’re wired for happy endings. God has stitched hope into our souls, giving us the strength to go on.
- John Masefield, “Sea Fever,” in Salt-Water Ballads (New York: Macmillan, 1913), 59.