We do not live in a bubble. The birth pains Jesus foretold affect us all. These days, fear and worry do not nibble occasionally at the edges of our lives. No, they are bold, marching right into our hearts and minds, taking over our thoughts and emotions, and dictating our behaviors.
How do the children of God, followers of Christ, live through the birth pains?
While Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 give Jesus’ description of many terrifying things that are yet to take place (and are already taking place), tucked into those chapters are our Lord’s words on how to live in these days. The three chapters are almost parallel, all of them echoing the same thoughts.
“Don’t panic.” These things must happen. The earth will go through these birth pains before the new can come. Don’t panic. Hold on.
“Pray for strength…” Those who endure to the end will “win their souls.”
Severe persecution will come, “but this will be your opportunity to tell them about me.” Our mission is to make new disciples, and Jesus promised that we don’t need to worry about what we will say when we stand trial for our faith. The Spirit will speak through us. Many of us are not yet under arrest for following Jesus, but we do stand at times “on trial” in front of those who oppose Christ’s teaching. I do tend to worry about what to say in these situations, but let’s claim this promise and pray it in our war rooms!
“Remember, I’m coming back. Watch for me. Be ready.” Luke adds these words from Jesus: “Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let the day catch you unaware.” (Luke 21:34) Carousing and drunkenness don’t hold much sway in my life, but the worries of daily life? Yes, they can dull my heart. I need to stay alert.
And then, as we seek strength and wisdom to live in these birth-pain times, we also need to go to the fourth Gospel. John, one of Jesus’ closest friends, also records words from Jesus as the Lord looks toward the future.
But John concentrates on a completely different aspect of how we are to live through these times of birth pains.
In John’s account, very little is said about events. Instead, as Jesus spends the last hours of His life preparing His disciples for what’s coming in the future, He says, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” (John 14:1)
There it is, all wrapped up in two short sentences.
Jesus goes on to talk about:
* the coming of the Spirit, who will guide and care for His followers. Depend on Him!
* living always in the presence of God. Stay connected to the Vine.
* loving each other and finding joy overflowing.
Some of the most loved and treasured passages are there in John 14 and 15, as Jesus talks about how His followers are to live in the time between His leaving the earth and the time He returns.
John records only one of Jesus’ warnings about coming events: Terrible persecution. The hatred of the world. A time when “those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God.” Sound familiar?
Fear and worry came stomping into my head a few days ago as I considered some of these things that are now touching my life.
I needed to hear the assurance of my Lord and promises concerning how we can endure through these times.
Everything is summed up in those two sentences: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” I’m going forward, basing everything on that trust.
I am trusting you, O LORD,
saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.