The Problem with Our Problems: Gospel Truth Through Film: What About Bob?

Sabbath Reflection for August 22 (’14)


41JVZ9KEK0L._SY300_Wish you could take a vacation from your problems?  In What About Bob?, Bill Murray plays a crazy man filled with every psychosis imaginable.  His psychiatrist, played by Richard Dreyfuss, takes a well-earned month-long vacation on which he plans to celebrate his new dream home, new book, and new national success with a spot on Good Morning America.  Everywhere he goes, his psycho patient, Bob, is following.  He can’t help himself, and that becomes Dreyfuss’ problem.  As the movie progresses, the crazy man turns the sane man crazy while becoming crazy himself.

It’s a hilarious film highlighting the inner desire we all have to escape our problems.  As I watched this movie (for what was likely the twentieth time), I couldn’t help but feel sorry for both. Bob seeks help from a doctor who spends less than three minutes diagnosing him, yet he misses Bob’s central problem.  Instead of asking, “Why is this man afraid of everything?”, Dreyfuss prescribes “Baby Steps” to overcome all things: “Baby steps out the door; baby steps down the stairway,” etc.  Immediately, we realize the arrogance and self-centeredness of Dreyfuss, the man Bob views as his Messiah: Baby Steps isn’t just a generic philosophy, it’s also the “good” doctor’s new book.  He cares less for really helping the patient and cares tremendously to help himself to Bob’s money and seek his own fame and success.

Bob’s problem was fear.  The movie never reveals how the fear took such firm root, but it is there and has grown like a tomato plant on miracle grow.  There was nowhere for Bob to go from his problems, fear, and self-destructiveness.  He needed saving.  He latches to Dreyfuss.  Dreyfuss’ problem appears to be insecurity paradoxically pared with arrogant self-assuredness.  Both are in need, though neither knows what will satisfy.

Indeed, we are a problem plagued Race and we cannot take a self-made vacation from our problems.  I think it was unintentional by the writers of the movie, but pitting Bob and Dreyfus against each other in Dreyfus’ vacation spot brilliantly captures the truth: we can never escape our problems.  They follow us wherever we go.  More brilliantly, it is impossible to know whether Murray or Dreyfuss is the protagonist or antagonist.   For Christians, we know the truth is yet more insidious: our problems descend not only to vacation spots and work, but also to the depths of our being and hearts. We are our greatest problem.  We are our own antagonists needing help from no one to mess up whatever is good and true.  We need liberation; no “baby step” can overcome this.  But a Messiah has.  We are the antagonists here, and Messiah is the protagonist who doesn’t attempt to blow us up (like the Doc does to Bob), but dies in our place.

-1The sanest man cannot retain his sanity when he sees himself for what he truly is: problem plagued.  And no sane man rejects the cure when handed him: Messiah.  It’s crazy to reject Messiah.

Genesis 3 gives a glimpse of all this, showing Man’s problem, God’s promise, and the perspective we should all have going forward.  Today, we want to highlight the three problems presented by Genesis 3; these are problems from which we cannot take a vacation.

First, in 3:3, Adam and Eve are shown despising God’s word.  God said they could “eat of every tree in the Garden” except the “tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil” (Gen 2:16-17).  Eve, however, adds to what the Lord said, “…neither shall you touch it” (Gen 3:3).  This isn’t insignificant, as some may believe.  Adding to God’s word brings curse because it distorts our view of God (Dt 4:2; Prov 30:5-6; Rev 22:18-19).  God speaks so we know how to love and worship him.  Distortion of any kind perverts our view and brings confusion and curse.  Eve made God out to be a curmudgeonly miser, “Don’t touch that cookie!”  Adam, for his part, simply ignores what God said.  He knew what he was doing while Eve was deceived (1 Tim 2:14).  We inherit this from them.  We all have an inescapable problem of despising God’s word.

Second, in 3:6, we see the problem of spiritual death and shame resulting from despising God’s word.  Adam eats and immediately, “…the eyes of both were opened.”  At that moment, they began to die.  It would be a long death, but it would come.  “They knew that they were naked.”  I wonder what that must have been like, going from innocent joy to guilty fear all for the first time?  Satan said in 3:5, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” and 3:7 says, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.”  Satan, as is his M.O., lied.  It isn’t that they knew Good and Evil in a God-like way as he promised, sitting in judgment upon and over all.  Instead, they shacklesknew Good and Evil as the ones being judged, found guilty, and sentenced to death.  Their own nakedness and shame were witnesses in the courtroom against them.  They are for us, too.  This is more than a pound of flesh; it’s slavery.  I am never free from shame. Some pretend they are, flaunting themselves whenever they can.  But this is a public persona: they are still ashamed if a lover mocks them; friendships still hurt.  Shame is ever present with us, and no vacation can bring relief.

Third, Genesis 3:7 shows us the problem inherent in all tries at self-atonement.  Adam and Eve seek a fix.  They know they’re done for unless they get some serious duct tape.  The best they can find is fig leaves, “And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” What were they trying to do?  Cover themselves.  Why?  Because they knew.  Did it work?  No.  How do we know?  Because in the next few verses, they’re hiding in the bushes.  After all, no leaf, big or small, can hide our shame and genitalia from the One who made not just our genitals but all of us and who alone can remove shame permanently.  Why hide in the bushes?  Why try to take a vacation from problems that always tag along as your maxed-out carry-on?  Self-atonement always fails, which is to say, trying to fix your permanent, pervasive, and paralyzing problem of sin yourself is a task doomed to fail.  Their Creator and loving Lord provides covering for them himself.  He sheds the first blood so theirs does not have to be shed: And Yahweh God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Gen 3:21).  Here, they are saved by Yahweh’s sacrifice.  We, too, were saved by God’s sacrifice.  For us and for all, the path to eventual freedom comes through a crown of pain worn by another.

crown-of-thornsFor our problems, there is no escape—no vacation.  Unless—unless—it is a trip into the heart of God himself.  He covers our problems by blood; he covers our problems by inviting us to vacation with his Son whose blood has been shed for us (Rom 5:8) and clothes us with his own righteousness (2 Cor 5:21).  We take a permanent, even if future, vacation from problems by taking a vacation to the Messiah.


Heavenly Father, in the name of your Son, Jesus, I praise you for what you have done through him for me.  I thank you that Jesus has dealt with these three problems I inherited from Adam and Eve.  I know I can never really know how deep my problems go.  But you do.  Thank you for covering us by the blood of your Son.  Amen.

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