It was around 2am, and I was engrossed in conversation with my friends; our heads leaned in close and piles of pillows and blankets scattered around us on the floor. At 12 years old, there’s a lot of satisfaction that comes from staying up super late, giggling with friends until all hours on a weekend night. We were past the giggly stage and had moved on to what we considered earnest and deep topics.
(The middle-school age is a sweetly earnest time of life – when one considers both the mysteries of the world and the crooked smile of a cute boy with the same intensity.)
Our topic that night? The end times! I attended a Christian boarding school in a small town in the Ivory Coast with limited access to TV or the internet. Armed with what we had read in our Bibles (Matthew 24!), mixed with questionable sources like the Thief in the Night and Left Behind movies, as well as an impassioned message or two from a guest speaker in chapel, we whispered our fears and thrills about what The End might look like, and if we would live to see it.
We debated if Jesus would rapture us before the tribulation or if we would have to live through the end times. Were we ready to be martyrs (yes, really … we took this very seriously)? Someone brought it back to the classic junior high perspective: “Well, Jesus better not come back too soon because then I’ll never be able to marry Chris,” my friend sighed dramatically, thinking wistfully of her crush. (Spoiler Alert – they didn’t get married).
Present-day-me wants to roll my eyes thinking about those naive and limited views. But I also have to acknowledge that as adults we aren’t that different in our thinking.
When reading Matthew 24 and the teachings about the signs of Jesus return, a different facet of that old concern emerged for me. This time, verse 19, “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!” stopped me in my tracks. Since I’m super pregnant as a write this, I couldn’t help the knee-jerk reaction: “Please, not now.”
And isn’t that just how it is with us? Expending so much energy on “Lord, not yet,” and, “If I could only get through THIS phase, then I’d really be ready.” But I’m willing to bet that I’ll never truly feel “ready” on behalf of myself and my children to happily embrace a future that promises trials.
The truth is, we cannot know when that future will come – just as we never truly know what our future will hold, good or bad. Being consumed with worry about hypothetical future suffering – whether the literal “End Times” or fretting about all bad things that MIGHT happen – only takes away from experiencing present joy.
But I see something else woven through this scripture. Jesus offers perspective and strength: “See to it that no one misleads you…,” “See to it that you are not frightened…,” “…if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him,” “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”
His assures us not to be concerned with rumors and proclamations and fears about the future. We cannot know when He will return, and so to fret about it is a waste of time and energy. Can it be fun to discuss? Sure. I regret nothing about those late night chats developing my worldview with my young friends.
Live Kingdom life, as Jesus exemplified and taught throughout the book of Matthew. It’s enough. Being consumed with future, and trying to read the signs, and fearing what it all might signal? It only gets in the way of effectively living out the present for His glory.
Challenge this week: May we run after Kingdom life TODAY, confident in our pursuit of His will, and live without fear of the future.