Have you ever approached a difficult time in your life only for God to sort of step back and say, “Good luck!” You enter the darkness and you wonder what the heck you’re doing there and you start to have serious discussions with yourself in your own head about turning back or moving forward. Giving up or going on.

If so, you know how Bilbo feels in The Hobbit when Gandalf leaves him and the dwarfs to walk the dark path through Mirkwood alone. They run out of food. They run out of energy. They run out of ideas. At one point, the dwarfs convince Bilbo to climb a tree just to see if there’s any sight of the forest’s edge. Are they close? Are they almost through?

Bilbo climbs up among the tree tops. He feels a beautiful breeze. He smiles at the dancing butterflies. But all that he can see, stretching for mile after mile, is the endless forest. He returns to the forest floor, depressed. And because he had seen nothing good to report, the entire company lost their hope.

* * * * *

This is the problem we face, isn’t it? Year after year, we feed our hope with such meager things. But the time eventually comes when we want to SEE the goal – not just sense it. Not just believe it’s getting close. So we stop hiking, we climb a tree, and we look around.

And we see nothing but an endless path through a dark and tangled wood.

But this is the problem with depending on our sight, the problem with limiting our hope to what we can see with our own eyes. Bilbo couldn’t recognize the fact that the tree he climbed was in a massive hollow surrounded by swells and that, in fact, just beyond the next small hill was the end of the forest road. He lost his hope, and very soon after, because he had no hope, he lost his way.

* * * * *

Too often we allow the level of our hope to hinge on that which we can see.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen… Hebrews 11:1

Which I guess is why the best thing to do when the time comes to give up is to keep going.