Over the past several years I’ve been spending lots of hours watching the news, following politics, reading articles, studying the Bible, and everything seems to indicate that we are in unprecedented times. The struggle is that, virtually certainly, the vast majority of generations before us have felt the same way: the sensation that things are irreparably bad and couldn’t possibly last…and yet, we have made it from then to now. So how do we balance this sensation with a full perspective?

The reason that this particular topic has been such a heavy weight on my heart for so long is that all Christians inherently understand we have been promised very few things while on this side of heaven — almost none of them pleasant.

(refer to John 15:18-20, John 16:33, 2 Timothy 3:11-12, Gal 4:29, etc)

I live in a relatively affluent part of the United States. I have virtually everything I could want in this earthly life and then some. As I watch the civilization that I grew up in seem to crumble before my very eyes, it is very plain to me that we are following the pattern of Israel, and that Judgment is approaching rapidly. Our sense of morality and grasp on truth is entirely crumbling; we call what was obviously true “false” and what was obviously good “evil” (Isaiah 5:20). Our societal ties, our economy, and even our families are being ripped apart before our eyes. We have irreparable divides and there is no sign of coming together on the horizon. Our fundamental societal bonds appear to be severed in unrepairable ways.

Maybe that sounds pessimistic, but that’s not to say I am without hope. My eyes are fixed on the hope that is beyond the horizon, beyond the sun. It is fixed in the distance beyond all boundaries of human sight. However, that is not to say that I feel good on the day-to-day. I have a beautiful son that I owe my very life to. I helped bring him into this world and so it is my duty to enable him to live a life that also aspires “beyond”. If I feel so confidently that evil and Judgment is on the horizon, then I must raise him to obtain the fortitude to suffer with strength and resolve. And as we are to emulate Christ, I also must be a man worthy of emulation as I strive to be my son’s earthly, tangible example of Christ in front of his eyes.

So here lies the pickle:
How do I live a life that prepares us (my family) for the potential suffering that is guaranteed in the New Testament while keeping my son (and myself for that matter) hopeful and experiencing enough joy day-to-day to understand this joy is a shadow of the future but worth suffering for?

Fasting is not just the denial of the self for the pursuit of some potentially abstract spiritual benefit, so far as I can tell, it seems almost certainly to have an “already” quality on top of its “not yet” quality. Like many of the things given to us, taught to us, and left behind for us by Jesus, there is almost always a purpose to them in the now, not just for the “later”. I truthfully believe that preparing for the suffering to come, even if it doesn’t come in our lifetimes, is very likely of utmost wisdom. I am becoming increasingly convinced of this, but I am not quite sure how to balance it in my own life.

The denial of food and amenities in preparation for potential imprisonment, captivity, slavery, etc seems absolutely necessary to ensure that our earthly bodies are frequently having a touch-point with our future selves. I’m not intending this to be or sound “woo-woo” in any way, but it’s very difficult to express ideas like our redeemed selves without sounding slightly “new age”. If we can learn to control our impulses, inhabit the spirit and persevere of our own free-will when persecution is not actually present, how much more will the Holy Spirit empower and reward us when we are truly suffering persecution and require assistance beyond our means? Or to put it another way: If we were completely unable or unwilling to deny ourselves the impulses that drive us when there was no whip compelling it, how will we have the mental ability to withstand when the whip comes?

I want to encourage you to at least dwell on this, always-always trusting not in your own mind but leaning on the Holy Spirit and scripture, and to wrestle, daily, with your desires and your impulses. It is absolutely critical that we live lives that are not constantly lavish, and even more, that we live lives that truly show humility and preparation for the suffering that we have been promised.

In all the Judgments against Israel, there was an extremely common pattern:
God called them to submit to the Judgment and to trust Him with their very lives, even to willingly walk into servitude and exile, and the vast majority of Israelites didn’t obey; they fought, they resisted, and they died horribly for having done so.

We must do our utmost to prepare for the potential coming Judgment, even if it’s not THE Judgment, and to be willing to walk into exile itself trusting Him alone with our entire futures.

We all love Jesus when He saves us, but what about when He calls us to die for Him? To suffer for Him? It’s easy to love Him when things are easy, but what about when He calls us to give up our lives for Him?

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