Every time I think of the American era that Little House on the Prairie occurred in, I wonder at what they were able to accomplish and how little us modern Americans can/are willing to do. I mean, just take for example staying warm and cooking. This took amazing amounts of work gathering wood, especially the hoarding of wood before winter. Most of just take for granted that natural gas or electricity is brought to our home.
The fact is, back then people needed each other. Not just for emotional fulfillment, but just to live. For the most part, the man was working the farm ten-fifteen hours per day. His wife had to run the household, livestock, and children. If one of them died there was a huge hole left and often the surviving spouse would lose everything. That is the story line we are dropped into in Love’s Everlasting Courage.
Right away we see that Clark and Ellen need each other. They have been married and have raised a daughter on a family farm that was passed to Ellen and her family. Thinking they could swing it, they borrowed some money from the bank. Right after that the rain just stopped coming, which means no crops and no money. Clark has tried everything, even drilling all over the land to try hitting a well with water. (The movie depicts what I was talking about, as it is an all-day affair for two people to drill forty feet or so into the ground, only to find no water most of the time. Today we have ways to find water and mechanized tools to drill.) So Ellen takes a job in town, which Clark doesn’t like at all, but they need the money to make payments.
Soon after that Ellen becomes ill with Scarlet Fever and dies. This is an emotional burden for Clark and their daughter Missy for sure, but right underneath the surface is also the question: “What will Clark do now?” Without Ellen to help raise Missy. Without Ellen to help make payments until the rain comes. Clark’s parents try to help as much as they can; his dad helping him drill wells and his mom helping with household chores and Missy. But one tragedy leads to another and leaves Clark to despair and hopelessness.
The key moment for me in the film happens right when Clark expresses his hopelessness to his father. His father takes him up to a hill and asks him what he sees. All Clark sees is burden, heartbreak, and more work than he can ever endure. His father tells him what he sees is God’s blessing. The land is a partner to help him in this trying time. The neighbors that helped him rebuild his house when there was serious fire damage were also there by God’s grace and blessing. And last but not least, Clark’s parents who have worked so hard to keep Clark afloat and hopeful were a Godsend. But Clark doesn’t see any of that.
I am so Clark. I often bellyache about my circumstances and why God is cursing me, when really the opposite is true. He has given me everything I need to thrive in my bitter circumstances. (Which again are relative when we look at period movies like this.) I don’t see the electricity and natural gas coming to my house. I don’t see a great job with amazing health benefits, a true gift from God these days. I don’t see how very much I have. I only see what is against me and what I don’t have.
Soon after this intervention by his dad, Clark finds water. He can only laugh, holler, and shout with the release of emotion from within. God does this so often in the Bible and in my life. When the stakes are the highest and I’ve lost every ounce of hope in myself He comes through. Very soon after Clark finds the water it starts to rain. I have to smile for Clark and for myself. For Clark, he realizes that God is partnering with him through his hardship, by giving him land that has water underneath and giving him rain from above as a message, “I am with you.” I smile for myself as I also think about what God has already provided in Jesus as a sacrifice for my sins. What else does he need to show me for me to realize he has my back? Unfortunately too much…