Memes, Movies, and the Mystery of God’s Providence


Featured on this particular meme of philosophical proportion and theological provenance, was the face of a certain wizard, Gandalf, from the recent film adaption of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, with the words “Has eagles on speed dial… makes everyone walk.” If you’re lost, let me explain.

In the story Gandalf is the leader of a hodgepodge band of different people who are all on a mission to save the world from evil. On this incredible journey they face numerous challenges, many of which are life-and-death altercations with their enemies. On one such occasion it seems they have met their match and have no where to run, when all of the sudden Gandalf calls upon a flock of giant eagles who swoop in and save the day, scooping up the gang and flying them to safety.

Indifference or Omniscience?

So the question being raised in this meme is the fact that if Gandalf has the power to call upon these eagles who could essentially fly them to their final destination which not only would get them their much quicker, but also prevent them from the dangers of the journey, why doesn’t he do so? Instead, he lets them make the journey on foot, facing obstacle after obstacle, coming close to death on multiple occasions.


This question takes us deep into the mystery of God’s providence – His power or ability to work in our lives. How often do you hear people say, if God is good why does He allow evil? Why does God allow us to suffer? What is the purpose of it all? Well, as we learn in The Hobbit, through Gandalf’s seemingly indifferent approach to leadership, allowing or even preferring the long and difficult road to the short, easy one is the only way that allows for and promotes growth – spiritually, emotionally, physically, intellectually.

I think of the many, many times in my own life that I have been faced with difficulty, been permitted to suffer, been brought to my knees. Growing up in a single-parent household, being laid off from work, having two children under two. Each of these circumstances provided me with more than enough worry, uncertainty, and opportunity to grow and trust in God. Looking back I see each event as an essential part of my journey and am able to give thanks for the growth I experienced in the struggle.

God allows evil, suffering, difficulty all for a reason. Obviously, He doesn’t want to see you in pain, but He must permit these things in order for you to learn and to grow, to depend on Him, to hope for Heaven. Of course, He could take you straight to Heaven at the snap of His fingers, but your earthly journey – with all it’s difficulties and dangers – is an essential part of your formation and preparation for eternity.

The Risk a Father Must Take

Is there a possibility that you may not make it? Yes. Could you choose along the way to turn back, to give up? Of course. God is willing to take that risk. He loves you that much and wants so much for you to grow in holiness, that He doesn’t just give you a free pass.
That is good leadership. It is good fathering. To protect you from all suffering would be to prevent you from reaching your potential, from becoming who you were created to be.

“He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” ~ Romans 8:32

Even Jesus faced difficulty, suffering, pain, and even death knowing that God the Father could’ve rescued Him from His passion, yet consciously chose not to. It must’ve been difficult for Him as a human to ponder the same question as we are doing here today, even more so in the heat of the battle.

God can do anything, including nothing. He can choose to let you work through your own problems. He can also provide you with the help of His grace. Even though in your suffering and struggles it may seem that you are on your own, He is always with you. Whether He carries you over every obstacle or cheers you on from the sideline. A good father knows when to act and when not to. And our sovereign Father is no less prudent in these matters, even though it may seem like indifference to you at the time, hopefully you can look back in thanksgiving for the unfathomable omniscience of our Heavenly Father.

Question: Can you see in retrospect an occasion in your life when you felt and even hoped that God would free you from the difficulty of the journey and yet chose not to? Do you believe that He knows best and that it was the right decision even though it was difficult for you?