Coming up on Easter, viewers will have the chance to be reminded of how God works miracles – yes, the big miracle of Easter and the Resurrection, but also the miracles, both small and large, that He works in every one of our lives every day.
The movie Miracles from Heaven releases in theaters March 16 and tells the story of the Beam family as they experience the terrible, incurable digestive disorder of their daughter Annabel and then a sudden, unexplainable encounter with the impossible.
When Annabel Beam (Kylie Rogers) is diagnosed with a rare digestive disorder, her mom Christy (Jennifer Garner) leaves no stone unturned and no path untraveled to find the cure doctors tell her does not exist. Along the way she fights unceasingly for her daughter, but struggles to hold on to her faith in God as she questions why He would allow her daughter to go through such anguish.
While the movie is well done and compelling enough to have made me feel for the suffering of the family, especially the mother and daughter, the highlight of attending the film’s Dallas premiere was getting to meet the real Texas family of five that the movie is based on. In a behind the scenes interview at the premiere, the Beams confided their real-life experiences and what parts of their testimony they would add to the dramatization of their lives shown in Miracles from Heaven.
“One of the things I would add is that the actual illness Annabel suffered went on for over four years,” said Dad, Kevin Beam. “In the movie, it might look like a matter of a few short months, and, of course, it wouldn’t make sense for the movie to go through everything she endured, but the reality is the daily act of putting her to bed crying in pain went on for two years … three years … four years.
“It wasn’t just [that] we prayed for her to be healed and it didn’t happen, and a week or two weeks went by. It is the fact that we did not see answers to our prayers as four years went by that really adds to the testimony of the movie and how it shows us questioning our faith.”
Thirteen-year-old Annabel spoke up to say what is really most powerful about this movie and her own story is not the drama or unexplainable incidents that might be beyond the realm of most people’s experience. It is the little, common blessings – miracles of everyday life – of kindness, of God being with you and near you to comfort and affirm His love for you.
“What I really want people to know is to look for the miracles in everyday life,” she told me. “So often there is that one huge thing that is so hard, just bearing down on you every day, and you’re praying for an answer and looking for that. And you miss the little miracles that are happening, just someone holding the door for you or texting you and asking how you are doing. Those little miracles are just God saying, ‘I’m here for you, I love you, I have not left you, I have not abandoned you.’
“I really pray for the people who are struggling every day to look for those little miracles. Continue praying for the big miracle, but just keep your strength and look for those little miracles.”
Mom Christy finished with a reminder of what Annabel’s testimony really teaches, whether to those who are strong in faith or to the skeptic: “As I’ve heard Annabel say, ‘My story is my story, and I lived it. And I am the proof that God is real and God is faithful in that I experienced a miracle.’”
Hearing the Beams share reminded me there is so much more to their story – four years worth – that Christy shares about in her book Miracles from Heaven.
After watching the movie, I’ll admit I had some reservations. As I picked up on in interviews with the Beam family, the actors, and the producers, the story was intentionally told from a child’s viewpoint, to fit the descriptions of then 9-year-old Annabel Beam. Thus, some aspects of the story did seem simplistic, fanciful, or naïve.
My main qualm was the rather shallow treatment of the concept of faith. The word itself is loosely thrown around as something one does or does not have and implies a certainty that God will take care of you. However, there was no real expose of a working faith, the object of faith, or the reason for faith – thus the movie was devoid of any gospel impact or redemptive power.
I’ll credit the movie with not being so heavy-handed as are many Christian movies – no lengthy preaching on the steps toward salvation; no tearful scenes of repentance followed by immediate reversal of all sins or problems; no flowery, Bible-verse-laden vows of better behavior; and no segments with high-pitched contests against the non-Christian/the devil through prayer or debate.
However, there have been movies made that carry a resonating message of redemption, and not necessarily for an exclusively Christian market, so we know it is possible to accomplish. Let’s hope there will be many more of that type of movie made (especially coming from the faith-based niche) that represent quality production and deliver with finesse a message that chimes the chords of the human heart. Unfortunately, Miracles from Heaven, although family-friendly, is not one of them.
The film is rated PG for thematic material including accident and medical images.