Over the last six months when most of our time has been spent at home, I’ve been trying to find ways to keep my mind engaged. One way I’ve been doing that is by rereading some of my very favorite books. Most recently, I turned to my attention to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s been a wonderful escape, as my imagination has been swept away to the magical lands of Middle Earth, with its secret treasures and fantastic beings. What I love most about Lord of the Rings, though, isn’t the magic, but the nougats of wisdom contained in its pages, lessons that are as relevant today as they were when they was published in 1954

Recently, I came across a particularly profound portion of The Fellowship of the Ring. Frodo the Hobbit learns of the danger the entire world is in and realizes that he must go and risk his life to save everyone. As his anxiety and sense of overwhelm spike, he talks with his reliable friend, Gandalf the wizard. “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” Frodo says. “So do I,” Gandalf replies, “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.”

This conversation really resonated with me as I thought about my own experience in 2020. What an unsettling and disheartening year it’s been – a pandemic, serious loss of life worldwide, racial tensions and civil unrest – I imagine that many of your souls are as weary as mine is. Like Frodo, many of us are feeling overwhelmed. I give thanks for the reminder this book provides that I am not in control – and I give even greater thanks that for our faith, which tells us that there is Someone who is. While I do not understand all of God’s ways, I cling to the truth that God works through all things for good (Romans 8:28). Rather than getting caught spinning in circular thoughts about why all of these things are happening, my faith frees me to focus instead on how I choose to respond. Our scriptures are clear about how we are called to respond – always with love:

John 13:34 – A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Micah 6:8 – God has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Philippians 2:3-4 – Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Proverbs 10:12 – Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.

1 Peter 4:8 – Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Galatians 5:14 – For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

My friends, none of us could have anticipated all of the strife this year has brought. Yet we believe that God is present with us, calling us to rise about hatred and division. Today, I choose to do my best to respond with love. How about you?