How can a musical about the "miserable ones" win hearts in a postmodern world? How can a love story speak to people in a time marked by cynicism and threatened by a looming sense of meaninglessness?
If you have not yet seen Les Miserables, treat yourself to this beautiful film--and soon. It's a dramatic story filled with great characters and powerful life lessons, and it might just be a sign of hope for our time. Why a sign of hope? I think, at some level, people have been moved by the story because it boldly retraces a way of looking at suffering that is totally counter-cultural.
Since the beginning of time, one of the ultimate questions of human existence has centered on suffering: why does it exist, and how ought we to respond to it? Suffering seems to be woven into the fabric of human existence in our fallen world, and we are faced with often daily decisions about how to respond. In our early 21st Century mindset, there seem to be only two possible paths of resistance to suffering--it's either "fight" or "flight." Either we strive to overcome and eliminate suffering, or we seek to escape its debilitating grasp. We all know the myriad forms of escapism that are available today, not to mention the extreme forms of eliminating suffering that are now being promoted as human "rights." But we also know that these options ultimately fail and so leave us with a profound sense of hopelessness.
Les Miserables, however, opens a window onto a third alternative. It is the path of redemptive suffering. It is a life of self-sacrificing love which alone brings meaning in the face of senseless suffering. It is the Way which was made a reality by Christ himself--the Way which has been walked by countless humble souls, thanks to the gift of his Spirit.