Last fall my Mom and I watched the NeverEnding Story for the first time in years. I probably had not watched it since high school or even middle school (and I’m in my 30s now). This film from 1984 is filled with fantastic creatures, twists, and a significant theme: sorrow.
This theme comes out in the beginning when we realize that Bastian has lost his Mom, possibly quite recently, and is also dealing with bullies on the way to school. While running from the bullies he finds an old book shop where the owner teases him about a certain book. “This one is to dangerous” he says before wandering off to answer the phone. Bastian grabs the book and runs off to skip class and read it in the schools attic. We then go on a journey with Atreyu, who is destined to help find a cure for the sick Empress.
Along the way, Atreyu faces many difficulties. As he seeks out a wiseman he must go through a bog known as a place of sorrow. He knows that anyone travelling through must not give in to the sorrow but should keep going. If they stop and sit in it, they slowly drift down and are consumed by it. While Atreyu handles this alright, his horse does not. We watch in the saddest scene of the movie as his horse refuses to move and slowly sinks in. This warns us of the horrible reality of depression. It isn’t sudden. It creeps up on you and slowly erodes you, even when brought on by sudden events such as unexpected deaths or rejection.
“A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.”
Proverbs 15:13 ESV
After losing his horse he forces himself to move forward, one big, painful step at a time. Eventually he finds this wiseman, who is not what you expect. He has been torn down not just by years of living in a place of sorrow but by living alone in the place of sorrow. He knows what Atreyu needs to do and gives him instructions, but he does not see any hope. It has been drained from him over the years simply by loneliness.
Loneliness, sorrow, rejection are all intertwined. Find one and it will feed on the other two. I know this from experience as do many other people. The reason for the title is not just that this land we are exploring through Atreyu is never-ending, it is because sorrow feels that way. When stuck in it you don’t feel like you will ever find a way out.
But that is when Jesus comes. Just like a luck dragon named Falkor who comes with great cheer and hope, Jesus steps in to save the day. Jesus spoke of this many times:
“In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.”
“Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy not sacrifice. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners”
“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls…” Matthew 11:28
I remember one of the hardest times of my life. I came back to college after a bad Christmas break where my Grandma died. Upon telling a girl, whom I thought was one of my best friends, that my Grandma had died; she walked away without saying a word and broke off our friendship in an email a couple days later. One guy, new to school, told me I was walking around looking like death. In this time of difficulty, I spent two hours an afternoon for five days straight meeting alone with Jesus. Over this time I read John 17, prayed and wrote a few things down. Although those writings are now lost, I gleaned some things from John 17 that I prayed over myself for years after that. A few friends also rallied around me and walked with me in this.
Jesus is always available to us. He won’t necessarily take difficulty away, but He will walk with us and lighten our load. Sometimes he will do big miracles but that is not as common as His presence, which is very powerful. He might use the hardship to shape you into a better example of Him to others. All we have to do is meet with him in prayer, worship, and reading scripture. Just make sure you come to Him with a listening ear. In this way NeverEnding Sorrow is ended by Eternal Grace.
As you watch the movie you will notice that Falkor acts like this. He doesn’t take the difficulty away from Atreyu, but he does bring cheer to him and aids him on his way. Well, ok, maybe he does take one difficulty away, but I won’t spoil that for you.