Father Stu, in theatres now, tells the true story of Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg), an agnostic, hard-living amateur boxer who changes his life in a radical way.

After an injury ends his boxing career, Stu moves to Los Angeles to become an actor. When fame and fortune are harder to come by than he’d anticipated, he gets a job in a grocery store. When he gets arrested for driving under the influence, his equally agnostic and hard-living father, Bill (Mel Gibson), bails him out and wonders if his son will ever grow up. While working at the grocery store, Stu meets Carmen (Teresa Ruiz), a Sunday school teacher who won’t date him because he doesn’t attend church. Hoping to impress her, he starts attending services and even gets baptized.

One night, Stu is seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. When he wakes up in the hospital, Carmen is there, praying over him. Stu knows he’s lucky to be alive, and he begins to re-evaluate his life. A priest from Carmen’s church (Cody Fern) tells him, “I think God saw something in you worth saving, but it’s up to you to decide what you’ve got to offer.”

Amazingly, Stu decides to become a priest. Not long after he is ordained, he begins to notice a strange weakness in his legs. He is diagnosed with a rare, progressive muscle disorder with symptoms similar to ALS. The diagnosis rocks his entire life. The other priests express concern that Stu’s infirmity will prevent him from fulfilling his duties.

Stu wants to give up, but his father won’t let him. “A man doesn’t lose when he gets knocked down, but when he won’t get back up,” Bill says. Watching his son change his life has softened Bill’s heart toward God.

As Stu’s disease progresses, he needs crutches to help him walk and then he is confined to a wheelchair. But he continues with his prison ministry, telling the inmates that God cares about them and will never give up on them. Eventually his condition deteriorates further, and Stu must move into an assisted-living facility. Will he be able to continue his ministry despite his health issues? Will he learn that while God never causes our suffering, He will help us find purpose in it?

Fully Equipped

When Stu’s health began to fail, people—including himself—doubted if God could still use him. Thankfully for Stu—and for all of us—that’s not how God works. The truth is that everyone has something that could seemingly disqualify them from serving in God’s kingdom. It might be a physical or mental illness, a past mistake or a personal struggle such as addiction. In fact, those things about ourselves that we think are the most disqualifying are often the very parts of us that God can use most easily.

The Bible gives many examples of God using imperfect people. David was a murderer and an adulterer. Rahab was a prostitute. Jesus called James and John “the sons of thunder” because they had anger issues. Peter denied even knowing Jesus but later became the rock on which the early church was built. God used them, and He can use us, too—not in spite of our deficiencies, but often, because of them.

Our life experiences can make us more empathetic to another person’s pain and help us relate to them. Father Stu once said that he was actually thankful for his illness because it led him to shed the pride he’d struggled with for most of his life. His disease caused his body to fail him, but that same disease made him uniquely qualified to lead others to the Lord. He found purpose in his pain.

When others see that God has redeemed our past mistakes, they understand that He can do it for them, too. God can use our pain and our struggles for good.

Suffering is never fun, but if we let Him, God will help us find purpose in our pain.

Viewer Advisory

Father Stu contains some salty language and adult situations, but the redemptive message of the film is valuable and uplifting.

Diane Stark is a wife, mother of five and freelance writer from rural Indiana. She loves to write about the important things in life: her family and her faith.

Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing

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