Spiritual Lessons from The Lord of the Rings: Don’t Be Like Denethor!

Denethor, from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, can teach us about the danger of isolating ourselves in a time of turmoil.

I am a pretty big fan of J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel, “The Lord of the Rings.” I usually re-read it once a year a so. I had started in on it early this year and as I was finishing the third volume as the Covid-19 pandemic was ramping up. I found myself drawing some fresh wisdom from Tolkien that applies in our current situation. One of those lessons is to not be Denethor.

For those who haven’t read “The Lord of the Rings,” or perhaps haven’t read is recently, here is some background. The central story is a quest of Good against Evil. As in real-life, many characters are mostly good, but have their failings. Such is Denethor, the Steward of Gondor. The once mighty kingdom of Gondor, ruled for many, many years by stewards, is the last hope for the forces of Good. Denethor is a wise, strong and brave leader of men. However, as the peril to the kingdom grew, he dared to use a Palantir, a “seeing stone” that allowed him to see events that were happening far away.

None of this sounds too bad. However, Sauron, the embodiment of Evil and the enemy of Good, also had a Palantir and due to the strength of his will he could use it to limit what Denethor sees and influence how he interpreted what he saw when he dared to use the Palantir. Denethor sees only the massed forces of evil arrayed against him and does not see others who are coming do the aid of Gondor. As the war begins and Sauron’s forces attack Gondor, Denethor believes the cause is hopeless and burns himself alive.

Don’t be like Denethor. What was his mistake? He over estimated his own strength. He wrestled with the enemy and with his own doubts and grief in secret. He thought that he could go it alone and did not avail himself of the council of others who could have helped him see through the enemy’s half truths and deceptions. Instead, he grew more and more despondent and discouraged as he was fed a steady diet of half-truths carefully shaded reality.

How do we avoid this mistake today, especially as we struggle to adjust to ever-shifting realities of life in a pandemic? Unlike Denethor, we must not isolate ourselves. It is natural and normal to have fears and anxiety. However it is madness to think we can walk this out on our own. Our enemy, the ultimate Evil, Satan, is happy to have discouraged and fearful. He is likely encouraging in us feelings of anxiety and hopelessness. He does his best work in the darkness, when we share our fears with others we bring them into the light, where Evil is greatly weakened. Sharing our feelings on social media is not the solution. We must share at the heart level with a friend who we can trust to safeguard our hearts.

We also must share our hearts with Jesus. He is the most compassionate, understanding friend we have. He has suffered far more than most of us will ever have to endure and knows what we were going through. He knows our hearts, our fears, and our hopes and loves us. I invite you to join together with other Christ-followers to share your burdens together in prayer with Jesus.

When we try to “tough it out” and do it on our own and isolate ourselves, when we do not share our hearts with others, and with Jesus, whether due to shame or pride or any other reason, we are falling into Denethor’s mistake. Yes we need to stay physically separated. We do not need to be spiritually and emotionally isolated. Don’t be like Denethor.

3 thoughts on “Spiritual Lessons from The Lord of the Rings: Don’t Be Like Denethor!”

  1. I enjoyed this and thought the analogy apt.

    It made me want to start reading the trilogy again.



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