Two characters who have made a big impact on me in LOTR are Théoden and Denethor. Both are kings of regions in Middle Earth, Théoden of Rohan and Denethor of Gondor. Both are deceived by the enemy, Théoden through Wormtongue and Denethor through the Palantír. Both die during the battle of Pelennor Fields. However, how they die is in far different. Denethor knowing that defeat and death are likely commits suicide on a funeral pyre, while his soldiers fight the enemy without a leader. Théoden also expects defeat and death, yet still rides with the Rohirrim into the battle. Both die as expected. Only Théoden, through his death, turns the tide of the battle.
All of us will one day physically die. It’s inevitable. Think how much time and money we spend trying to prolong our lives and avoid what will eventually happen. I believe Christians should be good stewards of the life God has given us, but in the end none of us can avoid death. Walking through a cemetery the other day reminded me of how futile it is in the end to escape death. All of us have sixty, eighty, a hundred years to live many less. We can respond like Denethor did and give into despair or emulate Théoden and act with courage.
Despair trembles when a person, recognizing that failure is certain continues to move because it is then that despair has lot control. Not that we should march into disaster with our eyes closed, but I would rather fail acting on behalf of Truth then never have taken a step. I think about this when I try to witness to someone. The worst that could happen is that they could kill me (at the unlikely extreme), reject me, or hate me, but that is not as bad as concluding it is hopeless from the start and not even trying. Same with all risks. I could absolutely fail and be trashed, but if it is something that I know I should do then I am encouraged by Théoden to take a stand. Often, but not always, I find that because I serve an all powerful God the unexpected happens. The story takes an unexpected twist. Usually some good comes from not giving into despair, even if I fail, more than if I had seen the defeat and done nothing.
The good news for us is death is not the end of the story. We have seen the ending to the world’s story. Good wins as God conquers evil and death. All good stories end this way. Even in death and failure if we trust in Christ, we win. So if you must die in this life, and all of us must, go out swinging, go out loving, go out fighting, go out serving.