It is a simple fact of life that Evil “plays dirty.” It’s something we knew and witnessed from early childhood when the school bullies ganged up on the one weak kid, or when sniggering tale-tellers spread rumors about someone without giving them a chance to speak for themselves. We see it most recently and profoundly in the organization called ISIS, which routinely murders Christians and other non-Muslims in abominable ways to make an example of them to the rest of the world. Evil simply doesn’t play by the rules. It is also true that Good is often looked upon as the underdog. It is the beaten-down knight who got that way by standing up against the wily schemes of some wicked princeling or king, thereby sacrificing strength, land, home, family, and sometimes, life itself. One has only to look at history to see countless examples of such people, especially Christians, who stood up for their beliefs only to be beset by monstrous troubles. So what is a Christian to do in this world? It seems as though the game is already rigged against us and that, no matter how hard we fight, we will automatically lose because we try our hardest to work within the rules that God has given us rather than stooping to the enemy’s level and playing the game by his rules (of which, there are none, incidentally, other than to make sure that he gets as many souls on his side as possible before it’s all over).
The principle thing to remember in this fight is that we are guaranteed to be ridiculed, mocked, beaten, scorned, jeered at, and – to put it plainly – martyred in this world. In fact, Christ himself tells us this when He says, “In the world you will have tribulation.” (John 16:33). The plain and simple fact is that we are never guaranteed a happy, carefree existence in this world, even if we do follow the teachings of Christ. This is because the Evil One is always going to try to make our lives harder for the specific purpose of trying to turn us away from God. Just as Job was faced with horrible trials and was told that he should curse God and die, so we will be faced with trials that are designed specifically to hit our weak points. Again, Evil plays dirty. Satan knows in which areas we are weakest and he will try to hit those points full force in the hopes that one of those weak points will snap, taking our faith and love of God with it and allowing him to claim us as his prize.
But the fact that we will certainly have tribulations in this world does not mean that we should not stand up against Evil and fight the good fight. Or rather, fight for the Good in this world. Samwise Gamgee, one of the most profound characters in The Lord of the Rings, makes this observation admirably in a famous monologue during the film The Two Towers when the exhausted Frodo says that he doesn’t believe he can carry on anymore in his fight against the dark powers of Middle Earth. This monologue itself was extended and modified a bit from Tolkien’s original version, but still provides a stunningly beautiful picture of encouragement for Frodo and for all of us:
I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something. That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for!
God made the world and pronounced it good. But it was only when He made man, that He pronounced it very good. In other words, we are the crown of God’s creation, meant to fulfill His command to subdue the earth and protect the good things which He created. Man fell from this lofty position, to be sure, but the fact remains that we are still the stewards of God’s world until He comes to reclaim it and make the sun “shine out the clearer.” Thus, it is our duty to fight and uproot the Evil that we see in the world and cherish and protect the Good wherever it may be found.
It can still seem an overwhelming and even impossible task to do this, and it is true that Good and Truth never seem to get the upper hand in this fight. But in looking again at the same verse in which Christ guarantees that we will have tribulations on earth, He also tells us something else: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Christ has already won the war and He is with us in all things. He gave His life for us and He will not suffer us to be abandoned to fight our battles alone. As James Russell Lowell eloquently notes in this stanza from “The Present Crisis,”
Careless seems the great Avenger; history’s pages but record
One death-grapple in the darkness ’twixt old systems and the Word;
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,—
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.
So have courage, friends who are fighting valiantly for the Good in this world. Though you may not immediately see the hand of God in your struggle as you fight the good fight, remember that you are never alone.