If you’ve seen or read The Lord of the Rings (and if you haven’t, you should), you must remember Gollum. After all, in a tale full of valiant, courageous heroes against dark lords and evil wizards, a pitiful and dejected little fiend stands out. He is obsessed with his “precious,” the Ring that has extended his life, but turned him into a wretched monster. It is the focal point of his existence, and he is (rightfully) scorned by Samwise for being so fixated in his twisted desire for the Ring. Gollum cries out for pity because of his addiction.
I think that we often do the same. Obviously, none of us have unnaturally long lives because of our fascination with magic rings, but we often wrap ourselves around things—not always unhealthy ones—and beg for them. When we are dissatisfied, we beg for pity from God.
This “poor me” mindset expects something from God that He is not inclined to give—justification to our self-pity. We want to feel sorry for ourselves because we are suffering for righteousness’ sake, or because we can’t have something/someone we want. Thus, we whimper and moan spiritually because of our suffering. There’s something better.
I believe that God brings trials like these into our lives to improve us. When we are whining about “poor me,” we are ignoring the fact that it is God’s love that moves Him to try us, not His indifference (which doesn’t exist, by the way). No Christian can learn this, though, by reading it in an essay—you have to experience it for yourself to know that God will bring you closer to Him through suffering. How? Personally, I have seen that in my toughest times, I have been forced to turn to God to work out my pain. I have had to fight sin in my life because I had accommodated it until it made my life difficult. I have had to memorize Scripture to guard my thoughts. If God had not let these trials enter my life, I never would have done those things. Trials and tribulations are the means by which God produces spiritual maturity.
So what about the God who says, Comfort, comfort my people (Isaiah. 40:1), or a Savior who proclaims, My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:30)? Is the promise of God’s perfect comfort and rest merely meant for the next life? Of course not. We are merely expecting an imperfect, human comfort. God’s comfort isn’t a cozy couch that we can relax on or good feelings all the time. It is far better than that—it is assurance that despite our worst circumstances, He still loves us and has plans for us that He will use to save and sanctify us (Rom. 8:38-39). This He will do through hard times, for the LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).
In fact, we have Jesus Himself as an example of suffering for righteousness’ sake. In John 17, we read that He did not whine about how He was being persecuted even though He was sinless. He asked that the cup of suffering be passed from Him, but still concluded by asking that the Father’s will be done. We, too, must be willing to submit ourselves to God’s will.
In the end, Gollum’s obsession was his downfall (literally), fulfilling the story’s conclusion. We know that our sufferings accomplish a greater purpose than the destruction of a ring—our sanctification. It is up to us whether or not we will suffer tragically, like Gollum, or purposefully, like Christ.[Matthew Loftus is a 16-year-old college student who plays guitar, writes a lot, reads even more, and wants to be a chemist.]