How Jimmy Stewart’s Faith Became the Focus of His Life

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

How Jimmy Stewart’s Faith Became the Focus of His Life

By Movieguide® Contributor

Before serving in the military, Jimmy Stewart was one of Hollywood’s playboys, but after fighting in WWII, he became a family man and put his faith above all else.

Stewart was the first actor to serve a combat assignment during World War II. He felt it was his duty to actually fight for his country rather than hide behind a cushy position as a recruitment promoter. As he went off to fight, his father gave him a note that would change his life forever.

“My dear Jim, soon after you read this letter, you will be on your way to the worst sort of danger,” the note read. “I am very concerned…But Jim, I am banking on the enclosed copy of the 91st Psalm.”

“The thing that takes the place of fear and worry is the promise in these words. I am staking my faith in these words,” the note continued. “I feel sure that God will lead you through this mad experience… I can say no more. I only continue to pray. God bless you and keep you. I love you more than I can tell you. Dad.”

“Dad had committed me to God,” Stewart recalled. “I felt the presence of both throughout the war.”

Stewart served in the Air Force for four years, fighting in some of the bloodiest confrontations and achieving a high military rank. This fighting did not come without a cost, as the actor suffered from symptoms of PTSD upon returning home.

However, Stewart also brought home a newfound faith, which grew throughout the rest of his life. His trust in the Lord began manifesting through the roles he picked up.

The first movie Stewart starred in after the war was IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. He played his role as George Bailey to perfection, largely due to his experiences during WWII.

“I don’t think he had that kind of capacity before the war,” said biographer Robert Matzen. “It enabled him to be ferocious and to have that raw emotion.”

It also allowed him to accurately portray Bailey’s faith as he continued to develop his own. During one especially heartfelt scene, Stewart’s character slumps down in fervent prayer as he wrestles with depression and suicide.

“As I said those words, I felt the loneliness, the hopelessness of people who had nowhere to turn, and my eyes filled with tears,” Stewart said. “I broke down sobbing. The power of that prayer and the realization that our Father in heaven is there to help the hopeless, had reduced me to tears.”

Stewart’s coming to faith is an amazing example of how the Lord uses hardship and trials to bring us close to Him. Oftentimes, it is only in the worst situations that we fully give ourselves over to Him in an act of hopelessness.

Movieguide® previously reported on Stewart:

Actor Jimmy Stewart, best known for his iconic role as George Bailey in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, said that his father displayed strong faith and taught him the American ideals portrayed in Stewart’s movies.

“Alexander Stewart was a muscular Irishman whose talk was as blunt as his face,” Stewart wrote of his father in an article from 1964.

Stewart noted that a balance of conviction and compassion was also present in his father’s faith.

“Dad was a Presbyterian, strong in his religion as he was in all beliefs. He sang in the choir with a true but penetrating tenor voice, and someone once described the hymns as ‘solos by Mr. Stewart, with accompanying voices,’” he recalled. “Strangely, Dad never sang very loudly at home. We lived in a rambling house with a large front porch loaded with wicker furniture. The living room, high ceilinged and trimmed with dark woodwork, held a grand piano, around which we gathered for family sings.

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