I’m a huge fan of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books. If you walk into my classroom, you will see a poster map of Middle Earth on the bulletin board. The story, of course, is nothing special when it comes to fantasy; it follows the standard for fantasy stories: a nearly unstoppable evil force, a small band of heroes, and one small chance of victory. What makes this fantasy story unique is the characters. We can identify with them and their struggles so easily that it is nearly impossible not to be drawn in.
One particular moment stands out to me. In the first book, The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo, the main character, struggles with his task, its immensity, and the force of evil pursuing him. He says to his mentor, “I wish it [the quest with the ring] need not have happened in my time.” His mentor, Gandalf, responds, “So do I, and 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 us.”
I don’t think any of us have had to quest to destroy an evil ring. However, I think we can all identify with what Frodo is struggling with in the beginning of the story. We have all encountered something out of our control that directly impacted us. With all the precipitation this year has left many of us wondering why. I’m confident that nearly every person in history has felt this at some point. The 1930s in the U.S. stand out as an example, especially here on the plains. The Israelites in Egypt must have had this feeling. David dealt with this while fleeing from King Saul, as we read in some Psalms. Elijah, too, had feelings of doubt about the nation of Israel when he fled Jezebel.
Gandalf’s response does not answer Frodo’s wish; in fact, it does little to quell any of his fears. It is, however, somehow comforting. We cannot control things outside of our power. Therefore, it is bet not to dwell on them. But there are things we can control. We do have power to make choices, which is an encouraging thought. However, while Gandalf’s response does inspire encouragement, it is missing an important aspect: God’s plan. It is maybe hinted at, but as Christians, it is important that we recognize and take comfort in our God being in control. David knew this, and his songs of distress are also songs of hope (Psalm 31). God comforted Elijah with the sound of a whisper, showing his loving care in the midst of all his power (I Kings 19). We, too, should be comforted by the power of our God, His control over the seeming chaos of life, and His plan to restore our relationship with Him. With those things in mind, we, too, can be a force for good in His Kingdom.