It is a harrowing experience to sit through seven episodes of the Netflix epic western “Godless.” It takes a strong constitution to stomach the violence and sadness of the chaotic shattered world the film portrays.

But the viewer who perseveres will be richly rewarded by the fascinating twists and turns in the compelling narrative the film unfolds and by the profound and complex portrayal of each of the main characters as their stories build throughout the TV mini-series.

Most of all, “Godless” confronts the viewer with the aching reality of loss. No one is spared in the film. Everyone loses something; some lose everything. It is hard to imagine how the story can end with even a glimmer of hope. But the title is ironic. In the end, “Godless” captures a transcendent tenderness and beauty that is deeply moving and offers a profound affirmation of faith.

Near the end of episode seven the surviving residents of the little town of La Belle gather to bury the town’s deputy sheriff Whitey Winn. No one knows quite what to say to honour the brave young man, until the town’s new pastor, for whom the La Belle residents have waited hopefully for the entire film, approaches the grieving crowd.

Pastor Garrett Moore asks to speak, but is told he has come too late. “I do hope not” he replies, then goes on to say,

‘Tis a fearful thing to love what death can touch. A fearful thing to love, to hope, to dream, to be. 

To be, and, oh to lose.

A thing for fools this. And a holy thing. A holy thing… to love.

For your life has lived in me. Your laugh once lifted me. Your word was gift to me.

To remember thing brings painful joy.

‘Tis a human thing, love. A holy thing… to love what death has touched.

It is true of course, that there are unhealthy attachments. There are attachments that are twisted with clutching and grasping. “Godless” is filled with this kind of sick enmeshment that produces nothing but unnecessary suffering, violence and destruction. This is not the attachments of true love. True love attaches to the beloved with a heart that is free and open. But the bonds of love do still hurt.

Everything we love will be touched by death. There is no love without the inevitability of loss. Loss lurks always on the shadow edges of life. We cannot avoid the inevitability of loss or protect ourselves from it, nor would we want to. Love is indeed a risky undertaking, “a thing for fools.”

But it is never wrong to risk the beauty of an attachment that is drawn from us by the force of love. The pain of loss is in proportion to the power with which we give ourselves in love. Those who love greatly will suffer deeply. There is no love without pain. But the pain that comes from love deepens and ennobles the person willing to pay the price of an open heart.

Our frailty and the inevitably temporal nature of all physical form are gifts not tragedies. The preciousness of life lies in part in its impermanence. We cherish most that which we are powerless to hold. We are moved most deeply by all that we cannot capture changeless against the inescapable ravages of time.

There is a nobility at the heart of “Godless” that speaks of the deep and rich reality of the human condition and the power of self-sacrifice that lies at the heart of the Christian understanding of love.