“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 2 Cor 1:8,9”
Listen to: KUTLESS, “What Faith Can Do”
In times of discomfort, my family likes to watch one of our favorite movies : the Lord of the Rings. The J.R.R. Tolkien story is beloved to us. An unlikely band of creatures (men, dwarves, elves, hobbits, wizards) forge a deep fellowship that overcomes their differences in order to resist a common evil enemy, Sauron. On their journey to destroy an evil ring and vanquish Sauron and his cohorts once and for all, the fellowship encounters death, grueling hardships, misunderstandings, betrayals, challenges to their faith, and battles – internal and external. They experience blessings and unexpected encounters that give them the strength needed for the journey, and to forge additional alliances that help in the fight to defeat evil.
The story teaches us of the power of the holy bounds of friendship, of help that comes from a place greater than ourselves, and of continuing the journey even when faith and hope seem lost. God is present, whether we believe it or not. Our faith will challenge us to act as Jesus expects of us – even when devastation is great and no rest in sight. We learn in these trying circumstances that we act on a power greater than ourselves. We just need to do what we can do, and leave the rest to God. This is what the Apostle Paul learned in his trials throughout his ministry. At times Paul felt crushed. Yet he persevered. So we are not exempt from hardship. We persevere because God is there, leading us through it, even when we don't understand .
There is one scene in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, that always brings tears to my eyes. The Hobbit, Sam, is helping his dear friend Frodo up Mount Doom, where the evil ring must be destroyed. Frodo is nearly wasted from carrying the ring. He can barely move. So Sam says, “I can’t carry it (the ring) for you, but I can carry you! Come on!” And so Sam carries his weakened friend up the steep pass. This is what we are called to do. We can't always take away another's heartache. But we can be there with them and ease the load where we can when the pain is too much.
We can all carry something. Like the Tolkien fellowship, we are a motley group, forged by our love of Christ and desire to meet and serve our Lord in our neighbor in need. Let us move forward in these times of peril, in faith, trusting our journey will bring forth good. It will be a journey that will shape us into holy bounds of friendship and care – forged in and centered on the love of Christ.
PRAY: “There are times when the burdens are so heavy. It’s too much for us. We need you. Help us to rely on your strength. Help us to forge holy bounds of fellowship with those you have placed in our lives – so we may, with your grace, find strength in you, confront brokenness and evil, and give witness to your never-ending love.”