I love the misdirection in a good spy movie—you are on edge, wondering what the truth is, because things are never as they seem. You have to wait till the end, the very end, to know what the truth really is, about people and about circumstances. We see this play out in several ways in the latest Mission Impossible, and refreshingly, it always works out in the positive. And, as such, it has some good things to teach us about our relationship with God.
Ethan is captured by the bad guys and about to be tortured. Ilsa is one of the bad guys, but surprisingly, she helps Ethan escape. It is through this that Ethan is convinced Ilsa isn’t what she seems. He is absolutely convinced she is good, and that she is a spy working undercover. Over and over throughout the movie, he continues to trust her, despite mounting evidence that he shouldn’t. His teammates don’t trust her. Her background supports their mistrust. She steals from him. She thwarts him and double crosses him. Yet, he continues to trust her. It makes no sense, really. Why would he trust her?
He trusts her because he believes there is more to the story. He believes there are things he doesn’t know that will fully explain her behavior—things that, if he knew them, would make him agree that her actions were the best and only choices. It’s a little easier for him to believe this, perhaps, because, as a spy himself, he often has to do things that he knows look bad to people who don’t know the whole story—like when he shot the prime minister in the shoulder, which seemed bad, but was really a good thing as it saved him from being shot in the heart by someone else.
In the end, Ethan’s trust proved right. Ilsa may have done some things along the way which hurt his mission, but she proved herself in far greater ways, starting with the fact that she risked her life to save his, several times. Ilsa was a spy and she wanted the same things Ethan wanted—to bring down the syndicate—and she proved to be a critical component in Ethan’s success in doing so.
There are several other instances in which someone who we, as an audience, like and trust, appears to be doing something questionable but in the end turns out to be trustworthy. Even the storyline follows that same model. It appears things are getting worse and worse, and that Ethan and his crew are playing right into the bad guy’s plans… but we stick with the movie because we know and trust the Mission Impossible formula. Things go from exciting to bad to worse…but in the end, almost miraculously (it is an impossible mission, after all), Ethan and his crew always win. The bad guy always loses. So, when Ethan is about to be tortured, rather than grieve or get mad at the screen writers, we wait with baited breath to see how he is going to get out of this one. We actually kind of like it when things get really bad, because that means there is going to be an awesome escape!
We would do well to see our relationship with God in much the same light. What if we could actually look at life with the same confidence? What if we trusted God so much that every time things got bad, rather than get mad or scared, we simply waited with baited breath to see what kind of escape plan God had planned for us? God is the original Mission Impossible story teller, after all. Think, about it. We know the story— God (and His people) always wins. The bad guy always loses. And whenever things get impossible, God delivers his people with crazy, miraculous stunts. His people either walk on water or the water parts and they walk on dry land. Walls inexplicably fall down. God gives people super-human strength, and, if He needs to, He raises the dead (Ethan was raised from the dead in MI: Rogue Nation, borrowing a little from God’s playbook-FYI). I could go on, but you get the idea.
The point is, we could learn a little as we watch Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. Both Ethan’s response to Ilsa, trusting her heart despite appearances, and our response to the movie, trusting the victorious outcome despite circumstances, point us towards this idea that things aren’t always what they seem. Sometimes it seems like God is doing something bad, but we have promises in the Bible that God is good and incapable of doing bad. So what do we trust? Appearances or God’s Word? Can we trust God’s heart even when what we see gives us reason to question? What about when circumstances are mounting against us? Can we trust that God always wins? Or do we believe that our circumstances are too big, too bad for Him to handle?
If Ethan hadn’t trusted Ilsa, things would have gone badly. If Ethan and his men had felt their circumstances were truly impossible, they wouldn’t have tried…things would have gone badly. Perhaps that’s why we love this franchise so much—because it is rooted in optimism and that speaks to us. No matter how “impossible” the mission, they see possibility and opportunity. This is the Christian life—it’s seeing possibility and opportunity in everything because we know that God can work all things to good (Romans 8:28), and that everything the enemy does against us, God uses for our good and the salvation of many (Genesis 50:20). If we don’t trust God, things go badly. If we feel our circumstances are beyond His ability or His love, we don’t ask Him to try, and things go badly. BUT—when we trust in God, not in appearances or circumstances, we look to Him to do the impossible and God (and all who are with Him) always wins.
Questions for Discussion:
- Why do you think Ethan trusted Ilsa?
- Have you ever felt you should trust someone when appearances were against them?
- Have you ever been in Ilsa’s shoes and had to do things that made people doubt you, when you were only doing what you knew was right and best?
- Do you tend to doubt God or trust Him?
- How would your life change if you viewed it the way you viewed a MI movie?
- When circumstances are hard, do you see impossibilities, or opportunities for God to work a miracle?