Hope rather that in the end even the least of your desires shall have fruit. The love of Arda was set in your hearts by Ilúvatar, and he does not plant to no purpose. Nonetheless, many ages of Men unborn may pass ere that purpose is made known; and to you it will be revealed and not to the Valar.’
These words, from Manwë’s messengers to the Dúnedain of Númenor, are both greatly comforting and extremely challenging.
First, they are comforting because they are a reassurance from a reliable source that something more than mere death is in store for Men. The logic is simple: Ilúvatar is no trickster. Your love of Arda, of creation, comes from Him, and He is not one given to sowing seed without the intent of harvest.
At the same time, the words are challenging because they require an abiding peace and trust even in the face of good things going bad. Because of Melkor’s malice, the peoples of Arda journey on a stormy sea, and what is right in front of them tends to command their attention more so than what is on the distant horizon.
Furthermore, not even the Valar, those closest to Ilúvatar, can say what it is He has in store for Men. “Yes, it’s nice to know there is something better in store and all, but as to what it is, that is quite vague. Meanwhile, I really hope I’ll see my loved ones again, or even glimpse the beautiful sea.” Death, for the Men of Arda, is the trustfall of all trustfalls, and even as the followers of Amandil and Elendil strive to embrace the ambiguously promised hope, there’s something in each of us that can sense the existential bind the Numenoreans must have felt.
That beautiful piece of Tolkien-inspired artwork you see above is from elegaer, my Tolkien Artist-of-the-Month for September 2016. Of course you love it, because it’s awesome, so go check out the rest of their work!