Through the years, I’ve received more than pleasure from reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s books. He had a deep and keen and helpful insight into life and human nature. Take, for instance, the dialog between Gandalf and Bilbo at the beginning of The Hobbit. Gandalf makes it known that he is looking for someone with whom to share in an adventure. Bilbo’s reply:
We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!
Then there is Bilbo, a scene or two later missing his beloved handkerchief, and Dwalin gives him a dose of life in the real world:
You will have to manage without pocket-handkerchiefs, and a good many other things, before you get to the journey’s end.
Then, that made-famous-by-the-movie scene in The Fellowship of the Ring in which Frodo complains about the times into which he had been thrust (“I wish it need not have happened in my time.”), and Gandalf imparts to him this nugget of gold:
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 woke up this morning thinking that I would much rather read an epic historical account than to continue living through one today. Why? Because adventures are nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things that make one late for dinner and forget his pocket-handkerchief. I didn’t choose this epoch. I didn’t choose to be the first pastor in the history of the church I serve to close its public gatherings indefinitely. I didn’t choose this COVID-19 era, full of sickness and lockdowns and fear and financial ruin. Honestly, I am partial to arm chairs and fireplaces and pipes and books – far more than I am to adventures.
But that is not for me to decide. I don’t get to choose my trials or my suffering or my lot in life. God is sovereign and wise and good, and in that goodness and wisdom he has decided that I will live now, through this time (and that is true for you too, by the way). As Isaiah 46:10 says:
I declare the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’
So, with Frodo, what we need to decide is what we will do with the time that is given to us.
And, frankly, we might have to manage without pocket-handkerchiefs and a good many other things before we get to the journey’s end.