Jesus says this in Luke 21:34-36,
“34 “Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; 35 for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. 36 But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us in this passage to be on the alert for difficult times. In order to not be burdened by the anxieties of life we need to be diligent, to stand guard over our hearts and minds, and to be disciplined so that we don’t allow ourselves to be taken over by fear. Our Lord also warns us to not allow ourselves to go down the road in misusing alcohol or other drugs in order to numb what we are feeling which will only make matters worse. To unpack this further, life is hard at times and we are weak and vulnerable. We too often allow the worst of our fears about what could happen to us dominate our thinking. This begs the question, how can we stand guard when we are so ill equipped? Luke 21:36 gives us the clue as to how we can stand guard over our minds and hearts so that we are not burdened by suffering which is that we are to pray to God for strength to trust in Him. We are not strong enough in ourselves and in our own abilities to guard our hearts but day by day we need to trust in God who holds us in the palm of His merciful hands.
We can become distressed by both our present circumstances and imagined difficulties. Let’s just consider three examples of real difficulties that we face: work or projects that we need to get done but we lack wisdom on how to proceed, relations with friends and families that are strained and we don’t know what to do in order to improve them, and financial strains in our budget in which we are struggling to make our income equal or above our expenses. All of these issues can weigh on us but our Lord reminds us to pray to God for strength to serve God. We also need to remember that while work needs to be done in regard to the examples that I just mentioned, we need to ask ourselves the question, what should I accomplish today? Once we accomplish today’s work we then need to put it to rest and not worry about tomorrow’s work but rather to focus on today’s work. (Matthew 6:31-34) We need to also remember that the deliverance and escape that Jesus speaks of in Luke 21:36 is sometimes an escape from our difficulties or sometimes He gives us strength through our difficulties.
Another major dilemma that we face, is that sometimes we worry about imagined difficulties that may never happen. It is hard enough to stand guard over our hearts about real difficulties but perceived, potential, or imagined difficulties are just a waste of our time and energy. Yet I am sure most of us have done precisely that, worry about something that never happened. When the thought comes into my mind which is about something which may happen, I tell myself, don’t answer that door. If someone rings your door bell, you can choose to either answer the door or not answer it, and if you don’t answer it, eventually the person will stop trying. The same can be said about imagined difficulties, which is that we don’t need to engage in that thought or answer the door but just need to ignore it and that is the best way in that circumstance to stand watch over our mind and heart. May God grant us the diligence to seek His face in prayer and also the wisdom, strength and grace to serve Him as we stand guard over our hearts.
Pastor Cedric R. Benner