By DANNY MINTON
“He knew he would try again, fail perhaps, and try once more. A thousand, thousand times if need be, but he would not give up the quest.”
Thus are the words as spoken of Samwise, the Hobbit, as he went on his quest. It was “a glowing obsession to surmount every obstacle, to find Frodo, destroy the ring, and cleanse middle earth of its festering malignancy.”
As you hear the “Lord of the Rings” story by J.R.R. Tolkien, you become engrossed in a journey. It’s a journey of “Good vs. Evil.” It’s a journey of friendship as friends gather together to complete a quest for good. The journey has its ups and downs, good times and bad, but in the end, good survives. While some banned the book and even burned it as satanic, in reality, the story is one of a battle. It’s the same battle that each of us faces in life. Our journey in life represents not one battle but many. Some of those battles we lose, and some we win. Some are against Satan as he tries to pull us away, while others are within ourselves as we have to make choices.
The exciting thing about a journey is that you never know what lies ahead. You may start in one direction and have several detours along the way. Some of those will show you fantastic new views of life, while others will lead you through some of the darkest tunnels you will ever travel. We learn that we are often as unprepared for the good as the bad along the way and must learn to cherish the good and tackle those negative steps as we move through them.
When our journey begins, we are not alone. There are those around us who train and prepare us for what lies ahead. We learn the difference between right and wrong. We may rebel and pay the price, but most of us become better for those years. Many of us have photos of those years’ good and happy times as children, which bring back fond memories. We possess pictures of the bad times as well. However, they exist only within our minds. Sometimes we learn from those experiences, while other times, they send our journey in a direction we would rather not move.
When we are no longer children, life becomes more complex. Once handled by someone else, we face challenges that now find themselves placed in our own hands to control. Sometimes we move on, but there are those times we find ourselves wanting to give up. In the animated movie, “The Return of the King,” based on Tolkien’s Hobbit series, a song expresses how we sometimes feel.
“It’s so easy not to try. Let the world go drifting by. If you never say hello, you won’t have to say goodbye. It’s so easy not to try; never stay around to cry. Move along when troubles come, like a mindless butterfly. For what good is it to love when the loving always ends, travel on the road that’s straight, not the one with hills and bends.”
As the song expresses, it’s often easier to take the easy way out instead of facing the trials that come our way as we journey through life. Remember, facing the battles makes us stronger. With each step of the journey, we become better prepared to face the next stone that stands in our way. As Samwise found out, times of failure will come our way. However, we learn to pick ourselves up and try again. If we keep trying, we can make it through those hard times.
Winston Churchill, during a speech to his old school, Harrow, made the comments, “This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
As our journey in life moves forward, we will also have those good moments to cherish. As long as we keep in mind that God is with us each step, we can enjoy the good and not fret the bad. The writer of Proverbs tells us, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NASB) With God, we can find positive things even along the rough paths.
When I broke my neck playing football at 18 years of age, I learned how fragile life could be. When we were married at the age of 20, I learned about partnership and working together. When we adopted a child with cerebral palsy at 25, I discovered what it means to sacrifice. When we adopted our second child at 27, I learned to share love in a family. For the next 25 years, the journey would lead through the good and bad times of living from day to day. At 65, when our oldest son died, I learned the deep pain of loss. Today, my wife and I have our aches and pains, those too we will live with for years to come.
Life’s pathway exists as a journey of various hills, valleys, and straight paths, obstacles we all face. But there is a promise for each of us that travels through life. The psalmist presents the security in the ninety-first Psalm. “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways.” In the twenty-third Psalm, David expresses that God is with us throughout our lives, in both the good and bad times, as he says, “for You are with me.”
In an 1880 sermon, Charles H. Spurgeon wrote:
“And did you ever walk out upon that lonely desert island upon which you were wrecked, and say, ‘I am alone, — alone, — alone, — nobody was ever here before me’? And did you suddenly pull up short as you noticed, in the sand, the footprints of a man? I remember right well passing through that experience; and when I looked, lo! It was not merely the footprints of a man that I saw, but I thought I knew whose feet had left those imprints; they were the marks of One who had been crucified, for there was the print of the nails. So I thought to myself, ‘If he has been here, it is a desert island no longer.'”
Of all the lessons we can learn from our journey in life, the one most important remains, “We are not alone.” No matter what our journey brings, we can always look down and find assurance that we are not walking its path unescorted.
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ