Think about your favorite book or movie. In the story line, is there suffering? Is there struggle? Do the characters persevere to a good end? I can think of some stories that don’t come to a good end, but they aren’t my favorites by far. One of my favorite stories is the Lord of the Rings, both the books and the movies. For those of you who haven’t read them or seen them, here is a quick summary: Bilbo finds a ring and gives it to Frodo. Then the wizard finds out that it is the ring of power that needs destroyed before the evil Sauron gets it and destroys the world as they know it. Three books later, after much travel and suffering and near escapes, the ring ends up destroyed in the fire. The characters are aware that they are part of a story that started long before they were born and will continue long after they die. And because of that perspective, there are some great quotes on living life well within our circumstances in the books. Here’s one.
Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring
Gandalf (the wizard): So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the ring, in which case you also were meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.
There are many times when I wish things had not happened in such a way or when I wish they would go differently or I just wish I could escape my circumstances. But Gandalf is right. We don’t get to decide our circumstances. That is God’s responsibility. Our responsibility is to decide what to do now, what to do with “the time that is given to us,” the circumstances that are given to us. James says in James 5:7 that we should have patience in our suffering. Here’s another quote in the story:
I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding on to something.Sam, Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers
If holding onto something is what kept the characters in the stories going, the question is what are we holding onto? James reminds us in James 5:7-11 that the something we are holding onto is that the Lord is coming again!. We don’t know when, but he will, and that should change our perspective on our current sufferings. Suffering isn’t all there is in this life. There is more. Jesus said he came to give us life and give it more abundantly or to the full (John 10:10). So our hope isn’t just a future hope of the Lord returning, but as Christians our lives should display Christ’s life to others, and that is abundant living! Sometimes in the midst of the suffering we need to be reminded of the hope, of the reason for persevering patiently. Frodo did in this scene. Here is the next two lines.
Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers
Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.
The Lord of the Rings is a story of a group of characters fighting for the good in their world. Tolkien could have written it without struggle. He could have had the eagles come and take Frodo to the mountain where he could have dropped the ring in the fire and the problem would have been solved. But no one would read that story because good stories have conflict and struggle. The same is true for our lives. Struggle makes our stories better. So join your story, as KPaul said on Sunday. Don’t run away from it, but engage in it. Hold on to your hope. Fight for the good. Choose wisely what you will do with the time given to you. Because evil is not the only force in this world; there are others. And that is an encouraging thought.