I am not writing about whether or not we are entering into the last days. Whether or not I think Jesus is coming before or during or after the tribulation is a different topic. While I do think it is important to have knowledge about upcoming harsh events if possible, I do not think it is enough to have the information. We need diagnoticians. And we need so much more.
I recall interactions with a lady, whom I will call Margaret, whose husband had died with complications of dementia. She had noticed disconcerting changes in him and was not surprised with the diagnosis she received in a phone call from their doctor. The journey was a long hard one. The escalation of his dementia, memory loss, confusion, his fits of anger and cruelty, his obstinence against releasing his overly tight grasp on paying the bills, resistance to bringing her into the knowledge of their stocks and bonds, the discovery of pornography which he had claimed he had given up… made the journey especially tense. I was amazed and inspired by her patience, her kindness, firm stands she took, and the excellent care she took of him over time. She discovered financial decisions he had made secretly when she took on the daunting task of learning how to use the computer. She started taking over the paying the bills. She started interacting with their attorney and financial advisor. She came up with ‘bottom lines’ she would tolerate and pursued navigating with mercy and grace the journey of his decline and pursuing life after his death.
She did not know when he might die, or how rough the days ahead would be. But after gaining the information of her husband’s forthcoming demise, this remarkable lady did not sink into despair. Having the knowledge would not be enough to help her with the implications and repercussions of his death. She involved herself in preparation for each aspect of life.
As I come across an increasing amount of prophecies and proclamations, I have felt an undercurrent of angst. Not so much regarding the “when” of Jesus’ return or whether or not we will go through tribulation. Of course we will go through some level of tribulation! Jesus clued us in pretty clearly when he voiced, “In this world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
My internal angst is due to what I consider to be the loss of encouragements.
Encouragements to do whatever we can to connect up with the One who has overcome the world, who can help us with whatever tribulations come our way!
Encouragements to intentionally participate in developing a strong and safe community.
Encouragements to intentionally prepare ourselves for whatever may come our way.
As Margaret, we need to prepare for the journey ahead. Prepare through intentional building of our relationships. Relationship with God. Strong community bonds where we help each other through hard times. Emotional preparation.
Recently I had an interaction with a friend who is certain we are approaching the final days before Jesus’ return. The parable of the upcoming wedding and the bridesmaids who ran out of oil came up. (Mathew 25: 1- 13) Having knowledge of the upcoming event did not motivate them to prepare themselves
Going back to the claim of Jesus, “I have overcome the world”, would it not be wise for us to develop a relationship with the One who has it all under control, will write the final chapter of our story line, and desires to gather us into His loving heart and His care?
I know of people who are gathering supplies for times when supplies are hard to find. Yes, physical preparations can be helpful and possibly needed in times ahead. And having extra supplies might put us in a position to help others.
We would be wise to also intentionally practice different disciplines so as to be able to endure the hardships, obstacles and challenges that will come in life- regardless of whether or not we have the imminent coming of our Jesus back to earth.
I have found Dallas Willard, Richard Faster and Jan Johnson to have practical ideas to help a person train oneself.
Dallas Willard has provided us a list and descriptions of some disciplines we can practice in The Spirit of the Disciplines- Understanding How God Changes Lives He writes
“ Though we may not be aware of it, we experience “disciplines” everyday. In these daily or “natural” disciplines, we perform acts that result in a direct command of further abilities that we would not otherwise have. “ pg 156
Disciplines of Abstinence:
Disciplines of Engagement:
Training ourselves in these practices are ways in which we can follow St. Paul’s example when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 24 Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Not only did he present cognitive information, he intentionally worked towards being able to live it well.
I continue to ponder how we can intentionally train and prepare ourselves to navigate living well in hard times. What I have written above are foundational pursuits. I want to expand with some other practical endeavors, which actually dovetail with the disciplines listed. These will help us live out the values of our God in this world where there are hard times and enemies who would like to destroy us to different degrees and in different manners.
Developing an increasing ease in the disciplines listed above, will aid us in regulating our emotions. When a person is caught in high anxiety, he is not able to access clarity.
We need to be rested and calm so one can think clearly, so developing the ability to get back to calm after an upset is useful! We can practically grow our emotional capacity and stamina. This will enable us to access rational thought processes needed to make wise decisions rather than live out of reactivity. (I have written on the topic of growing our emotional capacity in my blog entitled Practically Increasing Emotional Stamina)
Developing a strong community will round out strength and substance for all, compensating for our individual weaknesses. Jesus even prayed that we would live in unity in the same manner as He, God the Father and Spirit are one. We need community!
Developing where we are lacking in maturity and doing what we can to grow into wholeness is practically wise. (Resources to learn on this topic are in the book, Living From the Heart Jesus Gave You, and in the ” Transitions to Transformation “ training series found on my website.)
A few maturity tasks include
- becoming comfortable in receiving
- becoming a generous giver
- Having and using my voice
- Knowing when not to use my voice
- Having a clarity in knowing my unique identity, God‘s workmanship in my creation so that I can live it out.
- Practice settling my soul into the peace of God being my interactive presence
- Compassion towards those who are downtrodden
- Loving our enemies, developing the ability to forgive ‘70 x 7 times’, while also understanding this does not necessarily result in our building a relationship with a perpetrator of harm.
- Developing the habit and skill to lean not on our own understanding, but in all things follow the guidance of the all-knowing and all-wise God.
While aware that I still have much to do in my own preparation, I desire to have Paul as my example and mentor.
2 Timothy 4:5-8 (NKJV)
5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.