Fear and Loathing in Middle Earth

hobbitBilbo Baggins is a hobbit. Hobbits are a particular set of people found in Middle Earth in JRR Tolkien’s book The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Hobbits are mostly folk who prefer to live in their holes homes dug into the ground (which are very comfortable to say the least) and are found of being non adventurous. It isn’t to say that they are uncourageous, it is just that they are comfortable with being comfortable. They live mostly in the Shire (and some in Bree) which is a peaceful place of mundanity. Nothing much happens there and that is just fine with them. Hobbits have morals. And they try to stick to them. They also have social norms and a specific way to act in polite society. Some are able to do amazing feats when called upon, but they usually aren’t called upon.

Bilbo Baggins on the other hand, was called upon by Gandalf the Gray to do something amazing. At first, Bilbo was frightened. Bilbo is a respectable hobbit, not prone to adventure. Gandalf called him a burglar. Yet Biblo was a simple hobbit, living his hobbity lifestyle happy in the Shire. Gandalf saw something greater in Bilbo which Bilbo himself didn’t see. When Gandalf (with the arrival of many displaced dwarfs) offers again (with a contract) to Bilbo to be the needed burglar, Bilbo turns the down. Yet, as the dwarfs leave the Shire for their adventure to reclaim their homeland which at one time was decimated by war and the dragon Smaug.

Bilbo was afraid. Yet despite his fear, he finally decides to join the dwarfs in their quest. Yet he is still ruled by his fear. In his journey with the dwarfs, at times he lets his fear control him, and other times he controls his fear.

Fear. It can control us. It can paralyze us. It can make us resist stepping forward into the unknown. Fear makes us create excuses. Fear makes us stay two steps back from what might be because we are comfortable with what already is. Fear controls us because we fear what we cannot control. And so, when it comes time to act, we don’t. Fear stands in the way.

Fear is part of our human make up. It’s in our DNA. It has saved you many times, and that is its function. In the face of danger, fear kicks in, adrenaline pumps through your veins, and you take on a fight or flight decision. This worked great for hunting the wooly mammoth with saber-tooth tigers all around. Today, fear can backfire on us. It can do the opposite of what it was intended for.

In the Gospel of Mark, there is a leader in the community named Jairus who’s daughter is deathly ill. He comes to get Jesus to heal his daughter. On his way there, Jesus is interrupted and Jairus’ daughter dies. Jairus is told not to bother Jesus anymore. Jesus looks at Jairus and says to him these great words:

Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Mark 5:36

How often does your fear block our belief? How often does your fear prevent you from trusting? How often do you operate and make decisions based on fear instead of trust and belief? More often than you realize probably.

And then, as we look back on our lives, we begin to be upset because of all the things we could have done but didn’t because of fear. The devil we knew was safer than the devil we didn’t know (or something like that). Safety and comfortability takes more importance than trust and belief.

There’s another thing that happens in the Gospel of Mark. There is a boy who is possessed by a demon (stay with me here) that causes the boy to try to drown himself or throw himself into the fire. The disciples couldn’t cast the demon out. The boy’s father asks Jesus for help. Jesus tells the father to just believe. Not to be afraid, just believe. The father says these words which ring so true today:

I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” Mark 9:24

In our belief, fear causes unbelief. It causes us to stay away. It causes us to not step forward. Yet we, as this father did, are to ask for help in overcoming this unbelief, to ask for help in overcoming our fear, to ask for help in not letting fear control him.

When fear no loner controls us, we are able to grow into who we are to be. When we no longer let fear hold its grip upon us, we can step forward boldly knowing that whatever is out there, we can face. And we aren’t doing it alone. We have one who walks with us, leads us, goes before us, directs us, and protects us. When you step forward trusting in God, led by the Holy Spirit, walking with Jesus, you have nothing to fear.

Bilbo faced his fear. He grew into the name of burglar. He became the Barrel Rider, he became the Spider slayer and wielder of the sword Sting. He not only grew in wisdom, maturity, understanding, but he also grew in his understanding of himself. Fear no longer stood in his way. He became a new person after he went there and back again.

Where is fear standing in your way? Where are you letting fear control your decision making? Where do you need to step out in trust, following God, asking for help in overcoming your unbelief? Take that step forward, not letting fear control you, and you will go on a grand adventure.

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