In one of the climactic scenes of The Lord of the Rings, the young hobbit, Frodo, laments the world he sees around him with all the tragedy and darkness that has befallen him. Looking at the difficulty in continuing on the path laid out before him, Frodo mourns, “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” Gandalf the Grey, ever his wise mentor, consoles him with these words: “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 to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, in which case you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.”
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. I have often thought of this scene and these words as I look out onto our world. There are always crises of one sort or another that might make even the strongest among us pine for different times, crises that make us wish our journey would be a different and far more pleasant trip. The recent economic panic gives us one such contemporary example. The clamor for money belies our desire for some sense of security in a world that is far beyond our control. We long for a calmer time, when growth continued its steady increase and made the future look bright. But such is not the time that is given to us.
Jesus prayed, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from evil.... As You did send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:15-18). Jesus' prayer requires of the Father not a stoical attitude to His followers but one of Faith,Love and Hope found in the Kingdom.
Like Frodo and the other members of the Fellowship of the Ring, we can so easily look around us and see the peril of the journey in this world. Our desire to avoid difficulty and pain, and our longing for another kind of world often distracts us from doing God’s work in God’s world, regardless of the times at hand. Yet, our longings for what is good, beautiful, and right for our world do not have to lead us to flights of fantasy, or to wishful thinking. Rather, our longing for a better world should compel us to action as witnesses to the gospel as the force of good for our world. Indeed, our longings can lead us to decide what we can do to make the best of the times we’ve been given.