Hope and The Shawshank Redemption

Here’s a simple litmus test to tell if a movie deserves to be in your Top 10 list of favorites.

Imagine you’re channel surfing and you see a movie playing that you have to watch, even though you’ve seen it dozens of times before. That movie, which you find yourself tuning into any time you see it on the TV is likely one of your favorites.

I have several movies that fit that category for me, including Braveheart, Tommy Boy and The Shawshank Redemption.

“The Shawshank Redemption” is one of those movies I find myself watching any time I see it playing on broadcast TV.

Recently, Pastor Rick Warren gave a sermon on “Experiencing Hope During Difficult Times.” I was reminded of The Shawshank Redemption, since one of the main themes in that movie is “hope”.

The Shawshank Redemption is based on a short story by Steven King (yes, that Steven King), but it’s not a horror movie. It’s a movie about prison. Some have dubbed it the greatest prison movie of all time.

The story centers around Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins) who is wrongly convicted of double murder and sent to the notorious Shawshank prison to serve back to back life sentences.

Dufresne quickly befriends Ellis “Red” Redding, played by Morgan Freeman, a murderer who has already served 20 years of a life sentence, and though he sees the error of his foolish teenage act, nevertheless, sees no hope of ever being paroled.

There’s a critical scene about midway through the movie. Andy receives an unexpected shipment of books and vinyl records for the prison library and decides to blare music from an opera record to the entire prison population via the prison loudspeaker system.

This infuriates the warden, who punishes Andy with two weeks in “the hole” – solitary confinement in a room with no light source.

When Andy emerges from confinement his inmate friends are amazed to see him so upbeat after such a harsh punishment.

“Easiest time I ever did” is Andy’s response. “I had Mr. Mozart to keep me company.”

Fear Can Hold You Prisoner.
Hope Can Set You Free.

Andy’s prison-mates are understandably confused. Andy explains that Mozart is inside…in his mind and in his soul and then he declares, “there are places internally that they can’t touch.”

Andy’s friend Red asks, “What are you talking about?”

“Hope”, Andy replies.

Red gets a stern look on his face and says, “Listen here friend. Let me tell you something about hope. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. It’s got no use on the inside. You better get used to that idea.”

Pastor Rick, in his sermon, stated that we can have hope because we know that the situation we’re in is temporary….it will pass. He encouraged us to focus on that which is eternal instead of things that are temporary.

This is certainly good advice, but sometimes hard to implement. It’s difficult to focus on “eternal” things when there are so many immediate needs staring at you in the face, and often screaming for your attention.

We personally know people who have lost their jobs, are struggling financially, have lost their housing, have lost loved ones, are scrambling to figure out childcare and schooling options for the fall, are dealing with major health concerns with limited access to doctors, and many more issues that are magnified and amplified in this current Covid environment.

How exactly do we experience hope when there is so much pain and struggle in our lives?

I think Andy Dufresne provides a clue. Hope is something internal, rather than external.

Hebrews 6:19, speaking of Jesus, says,

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (emphasis mine)

The context of this passage is that Jesus is our High Priest. Through His death, He provided atonement for sinful humanity, making it possible for us to experience a relationship with Him.

For the Christian, Jesus is our anchor. He alone provides hope and meaning because He alone can provide ultimate fulfillment and purpose in life.

Where is your hope anchored?
Photo by Ron Smith on Unsplash

But what about all of the tremendous struggles we are facing? They seem overwhelming!

As we navigate life’s current realities, I realize how important the body of Christ is. We need others who can come alongside us when we’re struggling and offer real, tangible, material help, while reminding us of God’s goodness and pointing us to the hope that only Jesus can provide.

At the end of The Shawshank Redemption, Andy writes these fitting words to Red – “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.”

How are you doing in this current crisis? Are you more like Red – tired, disillusioned and lacking hope?

Or are you more like Andy, with a hope anchored to an internal, immovable source (Jesus).

Whatever your situation, let us know how we can pray for you! (Just click the Prayer tab at the top of the page)

Personally, we are grateful to our family and many friends who have been a source of encouragement and hope to us through the many struggles and trials we’ve faced over the past few months and years. You have helped us to continue to keep our hope anchored in Jesus!

The Anchor of Hope

For the last year and half, Jen and I have been volunteering as coaches at an Orange County High School. Once a week, a group of students spend an hour with us going through a curriculum that teaches life skills and principles designed to help students experience greater success in pursuing their goals and ambitions.

Pedro was a student in Dave’s coaching group this last spring

To be honest, these groups are a real challenge. Many of these students are unmotivated and have been hardened by the circumstances of life.

Some have had close friends killed as a result of gang violence. Others have relatives who have been in and out of jail. Some have witnessed shootings. For many, there is a feeling of hopelessness.

Dictionary.com defines hope as “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.” But what do you do when events don’t turn out the way you wanted or life delivers unexpected hardships?

Our twins are in the middle of their senior year and they’ve been thinking and dreaming about life after high school. Their hope is to attend a military academy and they’ve been working diligently for the last several years to put themselves in a position to achieve that goal. But obtaining an appointment to any of the service academies is incredibly competitive. It might not work out the way they’ve planned.

Joshua (left) and Jacob experienced a week at West Point over the summer and are hoping to gain acceptance to one of the service academies as their college choice.

There is a tremendous amount of hopelessness in our culture these days, especially among Millennials. Many are discouraged by the political system and by how polarized we seem to be on many issues. Others are discouraged by the high cost of education and the amount of indebtedness they’ve incurred. For some, the job market is not as promising as they had hoped and the American dream seems elusive.

The Bible has a lot to say about hope. The author of Hebrews says that “we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” The hope being spoken of is that God cannot lie, and therefore we can trust in His promises. The author says that Jesus is our High Priest who has gone into the inner sanctuary to make atonement for our sin, and as a result, we can run to God and take refuge.

Dave speaks to the UCLA Cru students at their weekly meeting

In other words, we can know God and we can come into His presence. He will not deny us no matter what we’ve done or we might be feeling about ourselves.

Jesus is the only one who can be an anchor of hope for our souls. Everything else will either let us down or is ultimately fleeting. We cannot put our hope in our job or in the political system or the college we want to attend. None of those things can provide ultimate meaning and purpose for our lives. Only Jesus can do that.

Thanks for your partnership with us in helping Young Professionals find meaning and purpose in Jesus, the hope of glory!