We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
In J. R. R. Tolkien’s work, The Lord of the Rings; The Two Towers, there comes a time in the tale when two of the protagonists, Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, find themselves facing a path that will lead them to yet more darkness. As they take a breath before adventuring further, they ponder the nature of story, and Sam voices an interesting thought.
“The brave things in the old tales and songs… I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and look for… but that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered… I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten.”
When we think of the stories that really mattered as we grew up, what are the ones that made an impression? What happened to the characters? Even though we see the same themes over and over again—that is, the hero stumbles along but, through trial and tribulation, eventually triumphs—those kinds of stories compel us and capture our imagination.
Perhaps the reason why we are so enraptured with them is that they reflect the kind of story our souls were made to long for. If Jesus had decided not to endure the cross, to turn around and head home, how quickly would His story have been forgotten? Instead, we watch Him walk determinedly into suffering and death. Yet even this is not the end. We watch again as He not only perseveres through His suffering but defeats death itself. The ending of His story is a triumph that demonstrates not only His glory but also our hope.
- Take a moment to think through your own story, through the ups, downs, and plateaus. As you reflect on the things that you might consider trials (things you had to endure and persevere through), are there ways that God showed up?
- If you are currently undergoing a difficult trial or disappointment, take some time to express your honest thoughts to God while knowing that your story is not done yet.