I’ve been reading lately in Luke 21 and noticing some parallels to our own time. Jesus is teaching his disciples about the destruction of Jerusalem and says that there will be “in various places famines and pestilences”(Luke 21:11). There will be “distress of nations in perplexity”(Luke 21:25) and “people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world”(Luke 21:26). I am not saying that the coronavirus is the end of the world; I am saying that biblical thoughts remain relevant. Jesus gives his disciples some silver linings for dark times.
We can still bear witness. He warns that prior to Jerusalem’s destruction, Christians would be specifically targeted for persecution. “This will be your opportunity to bear witness”(Luke 21:13). Disciples have a different view of hardship. It is an opportunity. Dark times get people’s attention. If they persecute us, we can speak. If everyone is afraid, we can show confidence. If everyone is realizing their helplessness, we can show the power of prayer. If everyone is taking care of self, we can take care of others. Dark times are tragic and sad, but they are also opportunities.
There is a difference in death and perishing. Jesus clearly tells his disciples that “some of you they will put to death”(Luke 21:16). But in the next breath, he says, “But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives”(Luke 21:18-19). Jesus never guarantees that our physical lives will continue indefinitely. We may die. But when we die in a relationship with God, we “gain our lives.” The grim fact is that—if Jesus does not return first—we will die of something. Disciples remember this. Death is still tragic and awful, but far worse is dying without assurance of eternal life from him.
Dark times remind us of what matters. “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap”(Luke 21:34). Jesus doesn’t want his disciples to allow their lives to be so cluttered with the concerns of this life that they forget their spiritual lives. That is easier said than done! Sometimes it is sin (“dissipation and drunkenness”) that pulls at us; sometimes it is just busyness (“cares of this life”). In dark times, we pull back to see what is important—loving others, doing right, taking care of the essentials, and leaning on God. Don’t let dark times pass without doing some pruning of the things in your life that “weigh down the heart.”
I know that the parallel to our time is not exact. Yet Jesus teaches his disciples that dark times don’t change who we are and where we’re headed. Let’s live like it.