If you’re at all familiar with popular music in the last decade or two you surely know of Amy Winehouse. This young talent died of alcohol poisoning in July of 2011 at the ripe old age of 27, joining the pantheon of young musicians who’ve died before they got old.  My wife, son, and I recently watched the heart-wrenching documentary of her short life on Netflix; it was not easy to watch. Sadly, her most famous song is aptly titled “Rehab,” and the lyrics prophetic:

They tried to make me go to rehab
I said, “no, no, no”
Yes, I been black
But when I come back, you’ll know, know, know
I ain’t got the time
And if my daddy thinks I’m fine
He’s tried to make me go to rehab
I won’t go, go, go

Her immense talent led to her enormous success, and her fragile ego couldn’t handle it. Even when everyone around her knew she was a tragedy waiting to happen, they couldn’t help driving the gravy train. They all cared for her, deeply, knew her vulnerability, but they couldn’t let Amy stop, even if they wanted to. Modern celebrity can be a beast that consumes those it makes famous. It didn’t help that her father was driving that gravy train because the money was too great to ever give up. She resented and loved him, but he was not the father she needed to keep her grounded.

We could, as we do with everything nowadays, psychologize her life, but the most obvious thing about that life is glaring in its, or his, absence: God. All that surrounded her was completely, and totally, secular. Throughout the documentary I don’t think God was mentioned once, but if he was, it was in the form of taking his name in vain. Or maybe Jesus flowing so easily from the lips of those who don’t know him. The idea of hell is distasteful to the secular, and all of us if we’re honest, but the life of Amy Winehouse reminded me of hell in all its unfulfilled promise. In the garden of Eden in Genesis 3 we read that the serpent, Satan, questioned the goodness of God, and tempted Eve with the promise of ultimate fulfillment, being “like God,” and thus being able to determine good and evil. That didn’t work out so well.

One of the reasons I love, and at the same time loathe, stories like the life of Amy Winehouse, is how it graphically portrays the shallow promises of this world. The Apostle John (I John 2) tells us why these promises will never deliver:

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

Here is the takeaway from the tragedy of this young lady’s life: NOTHING in this life delivers. Be it Grammys, or Oscars, or World Series championships, or World Cups, or huge business deals, or professional accomplishment, or romance, or family, or money, or fame, or any dream fulfilled you can imagine, or absolutely anything you can add to this list. Nothing!

I’ve used a phrase with my children throughout their lives I stole from one of the great movies of all time, The Princess Bride. The Dread Pirate Roberts, AKA Westley, tells the princess that, “Life is pain, Highness, anyone who says differently is selling something.” I’ve altered that a bit, telling them, “Life is disappointment, Highness.” And there is nothing better we can tell our children, or ourselves, than that life will never live up to our inflated expectations. This life will never live up to its vain, empty promises because our hope lies elsewhere, in a life beyond the skies . . . .

That’s what Amy Winehouse can teach us, and our children, that our only true hope is an eternal hope, specifically in our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. With him, everything in this life can be put in its proper perspective. Without him, we may get Amy Winehouse, the tragic object lesson of a God-less life.

 

 

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