“When will these things happen?” the disciples asked. They wanted to be ready. They wanted to know what to watch for. They wanted to watch the Romans and prepare for the worst. “So what are we supposed to do?”
Jesus says, “Live. ”
Don’t spend your time worrying and stressing about how awful things might get. Live normal lives. Life faithful lives. And, as Paul says, “Go to work and do really good work.”
Another story might help us understand living in the awareness of strife.
When the Jews were living in exile, the one between the destroyed temple of Solomon and the rebuilt temple of Zerubbabel, they got a letter from a prophet. God had told Jeremiah to send a letter to the people, living 1000 miles from home in the middle of the Iraqi desert.
And God said, “I know where you are. And I know why. It’s because you disobeyed me. But there is an end to the exile. I know the date and the time. So trust me about that. In the meantime, live. Plant gardens. Have babies. Work for the good of Babylon, the people who kidnapped you from here and took you there.” And so they listened to the letter and they tried to live.
And so they listened to the letter and they tried to live.
For the Israelites living in exile, some days were awful. They were asked to sing songs from home, the hopeful happy songs of worship and celebration. The songs that described the beauty of the mountains, the delight of unity, the annual journey to Jerusalem with its cross between a camping trip, a family reunion, and an old-fashioned camp meeting.
There was no way they could sing those songs. It was like being asked to sing happy Christmas carols when you’ve just gotten a tough diagnosis. Like being told that everything will be okay when you are looking at your loved one in a hospital bed.
Instead, at those moments, they wrote songs of lament. Sad songs about lost hope and lost homes. Honest songs about the pain at the moment. Because lament is an appropriate response between grief and going on.