In Luke 21, Jesus predicts the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (v. 20) and he describes how difficult those days will be. He is trying to prepare his followers for the distress they will have to endure and he says in verse 34 something that jumped out at me which I think has application for us today in a broad sense. Have you ever experienced a season of life when you felt as if the sky were falling in on you? If not, do you think you ever will have that experience? Well, what Jesus said in Luke 21 may be helpful to you. Here is what he said,
"34 Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man." Luke 21:34, 36 (NIV)
Verse 34 is an interesting verse. Here are some Greek word definitions (following the NIV text) that will help you understand more fully what Jesus is saying:
- Be careful = to give attention, to give heed. The phrase is in the present tense and in the imperative mode which means that it is a call for a constant vigil
- or (some translations render it "lest") = warding off something still dependent on the will
- be weighed down = to weigh down, to depress
- carousing (NIV84 has "dissipation") = literally headaches, drunken nausea. Signifies the distressing aftereffects of intoxication, hangovers. The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) translates this phrase, "so that your minds are not dulled from carousing" which is a good way of saying "hangovers" - which is actually in the HCSB footnote. The literal rendering of this Greek word in the NASB-NIV Parallel NT in Greek & English is "surfeiting" whose root word (surfeit) means: an excessive amount of something, its use in archaic times was of an illness caused or regarded as being caused by excessive eating or drinking
- drunkenness = expressing the instrument causing the depression
- anxieties = care, worry, anxiety, a feeling of apprehension or distress in view of possible danger or misfortune
- of life = belonging to daily life, worldly, secular, everyday
So often times when difficult seasons come, we look for a way to escape and to cope with the challenges. Unfortunately, the ways we often choose really don't help at all. Classic behaviors of escapism never help; they only add to the problem and the grief.
So how are Jesus' words helpful to us today. Well first of all, understand that all of us will face various crushing experiences in life. Read the words of the Apostle Peter:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. ~1 Peter 4:12 (NIV)Or consider the words of Jesus himself:
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. ~John 16:33 (NIV)So how can we endure these difficult seasons of life? Well, first, don't be naive in thinking that life is going to be a blissful cakewalk. Don't, as Peter said, be surprised when bad things happen. Don't be shocked when good people suffer and have bad things happen to them.
Second, if things are going well for you now, this is the perfect time to begin a consistent habit of prayer. Often times we wait to get serious about prayer until the challenges hit us. Jesus predicted the fall of Jerusalem 35+ years before it happened in order that they could begin to prepare for that day. Remember how he told them to prepare? He told them to be on the watch and to pray. In other words, don't get so caught up in the normal every day activities that you get caught by difficult times. If you do, those time will spring on you like a trap. So, Jesus says, pray that when those times come you will escape them. In other words, pray now so that when they come you won't be overtaken by them.
The key to being able to stand up under the pressure of difficult times is prayer. This reality should encourage and motivate all of us to begin seeking God and talking with him more often and with greater passion.
Strength to endure starts with our prayers ... today.