Lord of the Rings and Our Problem with Suffering

On this segment of pop culture preacher, I’ll be talking about the Lord of the Rings trilogy. So spoilers if you haven’t seen that, but – really? – it came out in the early 2000s? Go watch it. Also, spoilers for the Bible. Same response if you are concerned with spoilers for that too (+/- a couple millenia).

LOTR suffering

After the news on Friday, I find it hard to ignore the problems in our country. We are in a war for the soul of our nation, and it’s a painful process.

It reminds me of the second installment in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Two Towers. It is the darkest of the films (usually a second act is, with the new villain gaining an advantage over the protagonists) with our heroes in their most dire circumstances. They are facing insurmountable odds, an army created to destroy them, their quest is being thwarted by greed and selfish agendas. People who should be their allies are playing right into the enemies’ plans. Innocent children and families cower, waiting for violence to meet them.

Sound familiar?

But this suffering isn’t in vain. At the very lowest point, when all seems its darkest, Samwise Gamgee reminds Frodo what they are fighting for. He reminds us all what hope is: endurance in the face of adversity and a will to see light in darkness.

We are living a tale that really matters, and peoples’ souls are hanging in the balance. We can’t acquiesce to darkness and evil. We cannot become cynical and disengaged.

We must look at our journey as in the book of Hebrews.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the [a]author and [b]finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12: 1-2 NKJV

Jesus is our prime example, who endured the ultimate suffering – His eyes set upon the eternal goal of redemption – because He loves us with such complete abandon. We are to mirror His love in our world, to all people, for His glory. That is how we see light in the darkness. That is how we become a part of the greatest tale ever told, and how we can be a part of something that truly matters. There is goodness in this world, and we must cast a light upon it for others to see.

And we must remember those who have suffered because of evil in the world. We must not shy away from pain and suffering. We cannot overlook their pain in order to escape our own. We must account for their loss, count it as our own, and be united with them in love and faith that – one day – we will see our world restored. We must be with them in the trenches, cast aside our bitterness in order to be clothed in righteous love and protection for the helpless and defenseless.

Here are their names. Pray for their families, friends, neighbors. We must endure to honor their memory.

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