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I recently watched The Lord of the Rings trilogy with my son and was struck anew by the internal struggle we all face to do what’s right when we are tempted.

A little background: In a fantasy land called Middle Earth, a wizard-type guy made a set of powerful rings and gave them to the leaders of the elves, dwarves, and men. Secretly, he made another ring that would control all the others and then tried to use that power to take over and rule everyone. He was killed in battle and the ring eventually lost in the bottom of a river. Years later it was found by a river-creature, who was then killed by a former friend who coveted the ring for himself. Eventually, the ring was found by a hobbit who used its magical powers to help his dwarf friends on their quest to defeat a dragon. Fast forward and the spirit of the evil wizard-type guy is gaining in power, darkness is growing, and the good people of Middle Earth are in danger of annihilation – especially if evil can reclaim the ring.

The only hope? To destroy the ring in the very place where it was created. So the unlikeliest of creatures, another hobbit, carries the burden of the ring deep into enemy territory. Along the way, character after character is tempted by the power of the ring. Some try to seize it by force while others pass the internal test when they see the weakness in their own character and realize that absolute power would corrupt them. Even Frodo, the faithful hobbit with the good heart, struggles to let go of the ring.

The most fascinating character for me was Gollum (formerly known as Smeagol), the river-creature who had killed his friend to take the ring. The power of the ring corrupted and consumed him until he even forgot his own name. But, after experiencing kindness and mercy at the hand of one who knew the difficult burden and attraction of the ring, Smeagol changed and helped the hobbit. There were several scenes where he argued with himself over what he should do. Some times his good nature won the fight, then others, especially after he believes Frodo has tricked him, where his selfish nature won.

I could relate to the internal struggle. Sin corrupted who I was meant to be … until I encountered mercy and forgiveness from the One who knows what it’s like to be a human tempted by sin. Yet, even now I struggle to do what’s right. Like a ring dangling before me, I want to grab the power to retaliate and pay someone back for what they’ve done to hurt me. I want to force others to do things my way.

How did Frodo make it to the end of his long journey? Through the help of friends, especially Sam who never left his side. Sam gave up portions of his own food and water. He fought to protect and defend his friend. He confronted Frodo with the truth when he saw the temptation of the ring gaining strength. He didn’t leave, even when Frodo believed a lie about him. In the dark places, Sam talked of the beauty of their home in the Shire as encouragement. When the journey grew too difficult, Sam even carried Frodo up the hill. But when it came time to let go of the ring, Frodo had to make that decision for himself.

Do I have friends like that to help me in times of temptation? What about the promised comforter of the Holy Spirit that reminds me of truths I have been taught? What about a friend who sticks closer than a brother … who laid down His life for His friends?

When faced with the war within, I am not alone. But the ultimate choice is mine to make.

What about you? When faced with temptation, how fierce is the internal battle? What or who helps tip the scales toward doing what’s right? What is the ring in your life that’s difficult to let go of?

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