A company of twinkling stars do battle against an ever-growing darkness. A clash of glittering hope and ravaging despair that does not even spare its own servants. While an army of starlit souls press on the black tides, two lone stars have crossed the line of shadows to thrust the light into its ever-darkening heart. Within this pair a different battle wages, it is one thing to press against a darkness that threatens to destroy, and it’s another to dwell and toil within that darkness.
Hope and Despair, Light and Darkness do battle in more places than just Tolkien’s Gondor and Mordor. We live our lives pressing against darkness here on this earth, though it may seem less glorious than that in Middle Earth.
Some of us find ourselves on the path of Sam and Frodo, living within the darkness and despair. Others sit in the seat of the Lady Eowyn, where darkness and despair take up residence within us.
Tolkien knew all this, and he didn’t glaze over the harsh truth of the world in his tales as he demonstrated how man and wizard alike can succumb to the shadows and fall to a gruesome death of soul as well as body.
But Tolkien also knew that light and hope are everlastingly more true than any darkness or despair. He scattered this truth like a starry trail throughout his story. Finally, in the very heart of Mordor, at the foot of a mount so aptly named Doom, Tolkien revealed the depth of true hope to his readers:
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.”
There are stars even in Mordor.
The Shadow of Despair
Our lives aren’t so different from the characters of The Lord of The Rings. Once I reached The Return of The King, I saw a part of myself in multiple characters, especially the hobbits, Pippin and Merry, and the Lady Eowyn. They aren’t so different from me, and they aren’t so different from you either.
Perhaps you feel as if you are toiling in a forsaken land, like Samwise Gamgee, your home-life is falling apart, you suffer from the loss of someone you loved, or maybe a chronic illness overshadows each part of your life.
Perhaps an evil is pressing you down and drawing you in all at once, like Frodo; maybe it’s an addiction that, no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to shake it, or a sin keeps creeping in when you least expect it.
Perhaps you feel as if a shadowy sorrow has taken the place of your soul, like Eowyn; anxiety and depression plague your life and make it unbearable, or shame wraps you tightly in cords.
This looks different for everyone, but one truth will always remain constant: all shadows, no matter how long or dark, are a small and passing thing compared to the light and high beauty that awaits us.One truth will always remain constant: all shadows, no matter how long or dark, are a small and passing thing compared to the light and high beauty that awaits us. Click To Tweet
Light and High Beauty
Gondor is not the only kingdom who longs for the return of her King. Our world also longs for the lifting of a shadow. We too dwell in a kingdom whose King has gone away. But King Jesus has promised to return.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me…I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may also be,” (John 14:1&3b, emphasis mine).
We cling to this promise, and it causes us to hope for a day that (in the words of Sam Gamgee) “everything sad comes untrue.”
Paul writes in Romans 8:18 that he considers “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” This is what Tolkien meant when he said that shadows were only a small and passing thing; they can never reach the light and high beauty that goes on forever beyond them. The shadow lands of suffering we walk through now cannot touch the glorious light that awaits us when our King returns.The shadow lands of suffering we walk through now cannot touch the glorious light that awaits us when our King returns. Click To Tweet
Hope won in the end for those of Middle Earth, and hope will win–has won–in the end for us too. Hope always wins in the end.
And what is our hope? Paul told us in Romans 8:19-24, “creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God… For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?”
This is our hope: Redemption.Redemption stands far stronger and burns far brighter than the despair that threatens to entrap us here as the world grows darker by the day. This is our hope. Click To Tweet
Redemption stands far stronger and burns far brighter than the despair that threatens to entrap us here as the world grows darker by the day. Our hope is much like Lady Eowyn of Rohan’s: a soul made whole, a wedding, a kingdom renewed, and a garden where only peace and life grow.
Keep hoping. Your King is coming.