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This is Hope: How ‘This is Us’ Points to a Bigger Story

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By Anna Daub

[Warning-Spoilers for This is Us Season 4 Premiere][1]

I was one of the millions of Americans who eagerly anticipated season 4 of This is Us. Departing from the usual cast favorites, the premiere gave glimpses of men, women, and children we had never met before. In true Dan Fogelman fashion, the multiple storylines beautifully came together at the end of the episode.

One of the new characters was a man who carried the romantic disposition of our beloved Jack, the self-deprecating humor of Toby, the fame of Kevin and a singing ability that surpassed everyone in the family.[2] Oh, and he’s blind.

In the emotional final two minutes of the show, we find out that this man is none other than Jack Damon, who we last saw as a premature baby fighting for his life at the end of season 3. We collectively breathe a sigh of relief. Baby Jack makes it. He defeats the odds. He gets the girl, and they are about to have their first child. He opens at a concert with thousands of attendees.

Then we flashback to baby Jack, who the doctors confirm will always be blind. We inwardly cringe. We know that this disability will be incredibly challenging to overcome. But, though he will have some crazy obstacles in front of him, we know something the Pearson trio doesn’t know yet: he’s going to be ok. And we feel something in our hearts: the warmth of hope.

Knowing the end of the story shapes how we deal with the troubles of the present.

Amid the many Twitter responses to the season premiere, two stood out to me.

@another_egg1 states, “What’s really beautiful abt baby Jack’s storyline on #ThisIsUS is that you get to see his future as a successful singer. Finding out he is blind is so sad and makes you think of how hard life will be for him. But knowing he becomes a professional singer is very inspiring.”

@kat_writes states, “The use of dramatic irony with the Jack [D]amon storyline in #ThisIsUs is such a beautiful move. Knowing the end result completely changes the emotional beats and instills hope rather than dread in a disability storyline. Has this ever been done before? It’s groundbreaking.”

https://twitter.com/kat__writes/status/1179828670397079553?s=20

These two This is Us fans are on to something: Knowing the end of the story shapes how we deal with the troubles of the present. Knowing that everything is all right in the end “instills hope rather than dread” in any story.

This Is the Gospel

One of the beauties of the Bible is that God never left any doubt about the end of the story. Even when God pronounces judgments for humanity’s first sin, he immediately proclaims a promise. Though things look bleak, though work will be hard, though relationships will be broken, though there will be pain and strife, the end is good. One is coming who will crush evil and set the world right. Though facing a real judgment in a broken world, this first picture of redemption brings with it the ring of hope.

Then the Promised One came. Jesus, the god-man, arrived on the scene and proclaimed the coming of God’s kingdom. Through his time on earth, he gave glimpses of his coming reign. He gave sight to the blind, strengthened the legs of the lame man and set the prisoner free. He proclaimed the anticipated day when all things would be set right. 

He lived a life of perfect obedience to the Father, and, through an act of ultimate sacrifice, took upon himself the sins and the shame of the world through death on a cross. He took our place so that instead of enemies of God, we could be called His friends. He rose from the dead, sealing his promise that all who followed him as Savior and Lord would be welcome to one day dwell with Him. Through a relationship with Jesus, we are adopted into His family and become participants in His Kingdom.

Those of us who follow Christ can breathe a sigh of relief. It’s going to be more than ok. It’s going to be very, very good.

This Is the Kingdom

What is it about this kingdom that makes it so appealing? The Bible points to a time when God will make everything new. He will wipe away every tear. He will destroy both individual and corporate sin, tear down every sinful structure, and heal a broken creation. He will restore relationships and make us whole.  He will defeat death. A multitude from every tribe, language, nation, and tongue will worship together without division. We will see God face-to-face. We will fully know and be known by God, our creator, father, redeemer, and restorer. And God will bring perfect peace. The struggles of this earth will be seen as light and momentary afflictions.

This Is Hope

Knowing this ending changes the way we walk through the trials of today. Because of brokenness and sin, we currently live in a world full of trials, pain, difficulty and anguish. We face situations that are unfair or unbearable. We deal with illness, broken relationships, disabilities and death. But those of us who follow Christ can breathe a sigh of relief. It’s going to be more than ok. It’s going to be very, very good. During our pain and grief, if we gaze at our earthly trials through the lens of the end of the story, we feel something in our hearts: the warmth of hope. It is this hope that shines light in a dark world, gives us boldness to proclaim his gospel, and carries us through our deepest trials as we wait for the return of the One who will make all things new.

[1] Many thanks to Anna Schaeffer, a coworker and fellow This is Us fan, who helped me come up with ideas for this blog.

[2] Many This is Us fans took to Twitter to describe the adult Jack Damon in terms similar to these. See posts such as those by @rosierebekaha, who said, “Adult Grandson Jack; Sense of humor and grand gestures like Toby, singing talent like Kate, and Rebecca, looks like twin brother Kevin…Romantic like Grandpa Jack. Great Episode..#ThisIsUs” or by @lorebabyv who said, “The fact that Jack is a singer like Kate and Rebecca and hilarious like Toby AND Jack seriously hit me…”

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Anna Daub

Anna is a PhD student in Applied Theology at Southeastern Seminary. She is interested in cross cultural studies, the arts and creative methods for theological education. She currently works for SEBTS' Global Theological Initiatives Department. When not studying, she loves being outside or in a coffee shop with a friend.

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