Tag Archives: hard times

How NOT to wait during hard times [First Sunday of Advent, part 4]

6 Dec
Photo by Maia Habeggar on Unsplash

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.

How to love and be loved when you are facing hardship

23 May

 

Are you going through a hard time?  How are you handling it?

Some of you have seen The Passion of the Christ which vividly portrays the Roman flogging of Jesus just before they crucified him.  I remember watching that when it first came out in the theater, my stomach churning, tears flowing.  It is awful.

During his flogging Jesus doesn’t talk back, but he communicates very loudly and clearly because this was an amazing act of love.  Though the Gospel writers don’t say much about it, a Roman flogging was enough to kill some people.

But look at how Jesus handles it. Jesus is an example for us at how to handle stress, pain, anxiety, and trials.  We can complain, fuss, or get angry during the troubles and trials we face.  And here is Jesus under self-control. Taking it.

Does this mean that we should be a doormat, and just let trial and trouble bulldoze and steamroll us?

What is the balance here? Jesus allowed himself to be beaten.  Should we?

There is a major difference between Jesus’ situation and ours, and that is that Jesus’ mission was direct mission from God was to give his life.  When we are abused, it is NOT our mission from God to be abused.  Abuse is wrong.  And we must not put up with that.  We must get safe, get away from the abuse.

But what about when face the regular difficulties of life?  For example, what if we lose our job justly, perhaps because of poor performance?  Then it IS our mission to handle that in a way that is honorable to the Lord.  Another situation that many of us face might be a car accident that was our fault.  Again, it is our mission then to handle that difficult with grace.

But what about turning the other cheek?   What about pacifism?  What about Romans 13 and the God-ordained use of government to restrain evil?  These are very difficult questions that would require another blog post or ten! Staying with Jesus’ trial and flogging, we see that our Lord was on a mission from God to give his life, and he turns the other cheek.  He does not retaliate, though he could.  He could instantly eradicate all the Romans by his mighty power.  He does not.

He had to go to the cross.  No matter what the people would do to him to take him there, he was not going to reverse it.  That is another way I see the difference between what happened to Jesus and to the times when we must turn the other cheek.  Turning the other cheek is almost certainly not going to lead to our death.  Following the way of Christ might lead to death.  In many places around the world, Christians, in order to maintain faith in Christ, are put to death.

So there is Jesus, beaten, broken, shamed, rejected, falsely accused, and loving us all the way.

He did this for us.

Go back three years, to Jesus’ temptation.  Satan offered him an easy way out of his mission.  Just worship Satan, just bow down, and Satan would give him all the kingdoms of the world.  No battle needed.  No war.  Just a simple bowing down.  The temptation was great.  Satan is giving him the opportunity to be king without pain.  Jesus said “No”.

Now fast-forward back to Jesus’ trial, and we see Jesus taking the full weight of that mission upon him.  He is in the midst of the pain.

He has just a few hours before this prayed “if there is some other way, Lord, please take this cup of suffering from me.”  Now the full cup of suffering is being poured out on him.  It was not taken away from him.

Jesus endured.  He said “not my will, but yours be done,” and he took the pain because he was committed to the Lord.

That’s how much he loves us.  He was focused on the Lord’s will, on loving us.

Many years ago at Faith Church a guest teacher asked a student to walk a pathway around the classroom floor.  Easy, right?  Except that he had placed boards on the floor.  And there were nails sticking out of the boards.  And worst of all, the student was blindfolded.  Furthermore she could only walk around by following the guest teacher’s voice, while everyone in the class simultaneously, out loud, gave her competing directions. She was very brave to even attempt this!  She had to trust hard in the teacher, and listen closely for his directions.  She said that she had to really try to filter out all the other voices, and that the hardest voice to put out of her mind was her husband’s.

Jesus was laser-focused on God’s will, though the clamor from the crowd was loud and the pain in his body was screaming at him to stop.  He could have easily avoided the pain, the shame, and the loneliness by exercising some miraculous power that day.  Easy!  Call down 10,000 angels ready for war.  But he didn’t because he was focused on one thing.  The mission of God.

Let us come away from this story with a renewed appreciation for God’s love for us, for the sacrifice Jesus gave to us, so that we can remain focused on his voice. As Paul says in Romans 8:38-39:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Remember the Duke Lacrosse team?  In March 2006, three of the players on the team were falsely accused of raping a girl at a party.  An investigation leading up to their trial surfaced a staggering amount of blatant prosecutorial misconduct.  Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong handled his case so egregiously that it led to his disbarment and a brief jail sentence.

How did the players handle it?  They got revenge.  They sued.  But did it help?  To mark its tenth anniversary just a few months ago news media revisited the case.  Journalists interviewed those falsely accused, and found that though a decade has passed, the accusation still stings.  Getting retribution money didn’t solve all their problems.

When you are falsely accused, look to Jesus as your example. Seek justice, and with grace and mercy, focus on God’s amazing love for you.  When we remember God’s love for us, how deeply he loves us no matter the situation, it can transform our pain and help us to respond to the pain with love, just as Jesus did.