Early on in The Fellowship of the Ring,1 Frodo is preparing to leave the Shire with the hidden Ring. He recruits his friends to help, telling them he’s settling in a nearby area. But once he’s out of Hobbiton, Frodo discovers that his friends had figured out his dangerous errand long before and intend to come along with him.
When the extent of their secret plotting is revealed, Frodo exclaims that he cannot trust anyone. Merry replies:
It all depends on what you want. You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin—to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours—closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo. Anyway, there it is. We know most of what Gandalf has told you. We know a good deal about the Ring. We are horribly afraid—but we are coming with you; or following you like hounds. (105)
You cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone. So too with God. But I have often trusted him for the wrong thing.
I cannot trust God to answer every prayer exactly how I want them answered. I cannot trust him to orchestrate my life so there is no suffering, toil, or disappointment. I cannot trust him to give me everything I want. I cannot trust him to stick to the timeline I had planned for my life.
Like Frodo, I can trust my Friend to always act according to his love for me—his “steadfast love [that] shall not depart” (Isa. 54:10). I can trust him to hear every one of my prayers and answer them according to his wisdom. I can trust him to draw me closer through suffering and give me more joy there than I would have in ease. I can trust him to be with me through it all, never leaving me or forsaking me (Deut. 31:6).
What sweet relief it is to know that we can trust God to give us just what we need, not what we think we need! In days of fear and peril, take heart because of the trustworthiness of God. Frodo finds such strength in his faithful friends:
“You are a set of deceitful scoundrels!” he said, turning to the others. “But bless you!” he laughed, getting up and waving his arms. “I give in. I will take Gildor’s advice. If the danger were not so dark, I should dance for joy. Even so, I cannot help feeling happy; happier than I have felt for a long time. I had dreaded this evening.” (106)
Frodo’s journey had not become less perilous. He was still walking into agony, despair, and constant danger. But his heart is cheered by the loyalty of his friends. For now, it’s enough that he’s not taking this road alone.
Our joy is far greater than Frodo’s because of the one who walks beside us. Rather than joining us on a desperate—almost hopeless—quest, God is the sovereign ruler over all things. Nothing comes to pass that he will not weave for our good. And nothing will make him forsake us—neither fickleness on his part nor failure on ours. He is a friend who sticks closer than a hobbit. Surely this God is worthy of all our full trust.
Thank you. Well said.
Love this! Esp. the LOTR quotes. Amen!
Lori and I had an ongoing dialogue on this our whole marriage. Once she came to see that God’s providential hand rules even the roll of the die and his wise governance doesn’t keep believers from pain and suffering, she asked just this question of what Christians are to trust our Father for.
This went to a new level when writing my dissertation, because I knew I’d never get a full-time teaching job. I sat in front of a blank screen, knowing that I spent over half my life in college and graduate school and a house worth of tuition and it would not end in a full-time job. She asked, “God led you to do the PhD, so won’t he lead you to a teaching job?” Not necessarily.
Then rear ended turning into our church to drop the girls off at Awana. Lori and Hannah dead. Me in the hospital and rehab for months. One month memory gap. I knew what not to trust God for, but I was still groping for what we do trust him for.
Beatific vision. Why is God’s working all things together for good limited ONLY “to those who love God”? Because he’s working all things to display his glory and so only those who love God will delight in this; everyone else will be horrified. It’s not arbitrary. What about conformity to the image of Christ? We are transformed in beholding; when we see him, we shall be like him. This is the “good” that all things are working towards.
When your hope is fully set on the beatific vision, even death itself gives you what you want. Lori’s three most fervent prayers: (1) to be with Christ, (2) her daughter Claire’s salvation, (3) be a better witness at work. Her three greatest desires answered all answered in the car crash.
My heart goes out to you. Thank you for sharing your story.
This is also very helpful. I’d come to the same conclusions a few months before reading this: https://mereorthodoxy.com/omnirationality-and-divine-providence/. I love the glut of theological riches Christ as blessed his Church with. I’ll never have to do the hard work of publishing again because somebody’s already written it!