When George’s life falls apart he stumbles to a bridge near his town and there, in a terrible state, he considers throwing himself off. However someone else falls in first and George has to jump in to rescue them. It turns out to be a stranger called Clarence and as they dry off George tells him that he feels it would have been better if he had never been born…
The stranger is of course an angel, come down to earth to try and earn his wings, and when he meets George he sees a chance to help someone. George gets his wish and sees what life would have been like if he had never been around to do all the things he has done. It’s quite an eye opener for him.
Several characters in the Bible come to the end of themselves, Jonah and Elijah both get so down that they wish they had never been born, Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, wanders into the wilderness with her young son and waits to die. Job too has such a hard time that, like George, he wishes he’d never been born. And this leads him to a kind of It’s a Wonderful Life revelation. In Job 29, in an epic passage which might almost be about Jesus, he recalls all the good things he once did. ‘Whoever heard me spoke well of me, and those who saw me commended me, because I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist them. The one who was dying blessed me; I made the widow’s heart sing. I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame.’ (Job 29 verse 7-17) And then in Job 30 he describes what life has become now that he has stopped doing those things. The old have lost hope and the young have become dangerous rebels. They miss his influence.
We may not realise the way we influence others, the way our small strength, hope and kindness make a difference. And we may never get a George kind of glimpse. But all the same, the stories of George and Job encourage us to keep going, keep doing those great and small things to change the world a little. Jesus frequently stepped aside from the clamour of the crowds in order to spend time with one person, or to encourage the small or overlooked folks. It’s a Wonderful Life began as a short Christmas story sent out by the writer to his friends one year around this time. Stories are powerful, this one has gone down in history, so keep it in mind when it’s hard to keep going, and remember that you never know how you may be making a difference to others. ‘Never give up on doing good.’ Paul wrote in Galatians 6 and verse 9.
To finish, here’s the moment when George prays to return to life, after seeing how different things are when he’s not around.