When the Hallmark Channel isn’t enough

Published 7:13 pm Tuesday, November 12, 2019

By Charles Qualls

We watch the occasional Hallmark Channel movie now and then. There, I said it. I don’t feel great about it. But, it’s out there in the open now.

You know sometimes the cable selection has 234 viewable channels and still there’s just nothing on. Or it’s Christmas and they’re introducing 40 new movies over on Hallmark. So, you catch one of them.

What I do appreciate is that makes us feel good. Wholesome shows and movies, they seem to have a 100 percent chance of a happy ending. A guy from my hometown just made his debut in one of their 40 new Christmas movies. The very first one they aired back in October. He played Santa Claus, and it was a big thrill for him and all of us who have known him our whole lives.

Happy endings. We like them. Throw in a little Christmas, and all the better. Now, it’s not exactly Shakespeare. We acknowledge that.

Speaking of, I do need to run you through my routine. You see, I’ve noticed a certain pattern to their original movies on this network. The setting is always a small town. Usually a family business, all the better if it’s a family-owned farm, resort or lodge. It’s snowy and Christmas time. Old flames reconnect, or a powerful young business person comes into town and meets the hometown, beautiful and somehow available single person. They’re going to buy up the farm, resort or lodge and probably tear it down for a new development. Now nothing will be the same.

The principle characters connect. But, the bad news breaks and they’re on opposite sides of the hated business deal. Somehow by the end of the movie, the cold-hearted business person sees the light, the wholesome tradition they’ll ruin and they risk it all to buck the company plan.

Got it? That’s the formula. I can leave for a church meeting or community gathering three-fourths of the way through one movie, come home three-fourths of the way through the next one … and just pick right up where I left off. They graft together just perfectly.

Because it’s all the same movie. They just keep filming the same one over and over again. Still, we watch them. Because as I said before, they make us happy. Life brings enough uncertainty. Sometimes, I’m just not in need of a weightier, more intellectually challenging story that might also just wear me out. Life brings enough pain and suffering. I don’t always require it to be portrayed, just to feel like I’m seeing something real.

In Psalm 17: 1-9, we hear a prayer that is real and grounded. This is not the voice of someone trying to pull a fast one on God. In fact, he invites God to come closer for a closer look. He begs God for a fair hearing in a moment of pain.

The psalmist was having a bad night. Probably a bad night within a bad season. Maybe a bad season within a bad year. People love to say that God won’t give you more weight than you can bear. But, life sure will.

Life will hit you harder than you can be hit, it will pile on you more than you can carry. Life will put more on one person and one family than anyone around them can stand to see them bear.

You’ve been there when you yourself — or a loved one — faced a health crisis. You’ve been there when death visited and now your fears had turned to grief. You’ve been there when your job played out. You’ve been there when the friend or family member hurt you, or disappointed or scared you.

We can be tempted to feel as though no one quite understands where we are coming from in those times. As though no one knows what it’s like to be in our shoes. Read this psalm and see if you might connect with its pleas. Specifically, the writer of this prayer cries out in the fatigue of wondering why such bad things can happen to seemingly good people.

Whatever we may try when we feel like being distracted, there are times it won’t be enough. Whatever we may try when we attempt to self-medicate our pain, there will be times when it won’t be enough. Whatever we may try when we want to busy ourselves past the fear, it won’t be enough at times.

Like the psalmist, we cry out for God’s shelter in the storm. God hears, and gives sanctuary until the storm will pass. God is our refuge, especially whenever the Hallmark Channel just isn’t enough.

THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.