We have been studying the concept of waiting during dark times in this series of posts on the Lectionary passages for the First Sunday of Advent. In part 3, we introduced the fourth reading, Luke 21:25-36, where Jesus prophesies his second coming. Christians throughout the ages have been waiting for his return. That waiting can be difficult. Jesus remarks that in the watching and waiting we should be on guard against the temptation toward dissipation, drunkenness and anxiety.
Personally, I’ve had periods of hardship where I have actively felt and prayed, “Jesus, I am ready for you to comeback!” But those have been far and few between. As we age, though, or as we go through hard times, we are more apt to long for his return.
But in a wealthy, privileged society, with so many opportunities available to us, I think the opposite happens. We might not want him to return.
I remember thinking as a teen, “Lord, Please don’t come back until I get my driver’s license.”
And then as a college student, “Lord, please don’t come back until after I get married.”
And then as a young adult, “Lord please don’t come back until after we get to meet our kids.”
Have you had thoughts like this too? There are so many reasons why we might not want Jesus to come back. Reasons that have us focused on the opportunities of life, whether good or bad.
In verse 34, Jesus warns his disciples about losing focus on him and his return, and having their attention in life drawn to things that could potentially harm them, or worse, harm the mission of God’s Kingdom. He refers to three dangers in particular: dissipation, drunkenness and anxieties of life.
We don’t use the word “dissipation” much. I had to look it up. Actually I looked up the meaning of the Greek word that Jesus uses here, and I found that the word refers to the bad things people do when they are very drunk. (Louw & Nida)
So of course that relates to the next word Jesus uses, “drunkenness.” Drink too much alcohol, and you are no longer fully in control. In the ancient world Jesus lived in, alcohol was pretty much the main drug. In our day and age, we have so many options for losing control, don’t we? All kinds of substances.
With the words “dissipation and drunkenness,” we have a clear teaching from Jesus: do not overindulge in anything that takes you out of control of your life. Here’s the thing, though, when you are going through hard times, the temptation to escape the pain and get lost in a substance or an addiction is a powerful force in our lives that can lead to much evil. Jesus is right to warn us about it.
The third concept he cautions us about is, “anxieties of life.” And this one hits me square between the eyes. I struggle with anxiety. I wrote about my battle here. Jesus says be careful or you can be weighed down or burdened by it, and I know exactly what he means. Anxiety can become all-consuming. It, too, is a powerful force that can be hard to battle. Jesus is right to warn us about this too.
How about you? In the times of darkness in your life, while you are waiting, have you struggled with dissipation and drunkenness? How about anxiety? Please know that you are not alone. Many people battle as well, and there is hope! What is that hope? Check back in tomorrow for part 5 of this series, as Jesus has a very practical suggestion that can give us all hope.