How You Get Through when Things Fall Apart

life magazine, German ruins1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

You don’t need anyone telling you when all this will happen, friends. You already know that it will be like a thief in the night. When people say “peace and security,” that’s when it’ll hit. It’s just as inevitable as a pregnant woman going into labor. But because you’re not living the night life, the thief won’t surprise you. You’re children of light. For you it’s always daytime, never night. So don’t fall asleep, but stay awake and sober. Those who sleep, sleep at night. Those who drink, drink at night. But you’re daytime people, sober people. Arm yourselves with faith and love, and protect your head with hope.

God’s anger isn’t meant for you. God’s intention is to spare you that. That’s what Jesus’ death was about: keeping us alive, whether we’re awake or asleep. So, keep on cheering each other up.

Of course, except for the quotation about the thief in the night, none of this is true.

  • People take naps.
  • The Thessalonians were just as flawed as the rest of us.
  • People drink around the clock.
  • And Jesus never claimed any of this about his dying to spare his followers persecution, let alone God’s wrath.

In fact, Jesus said just the opposite: “If they did it to me, they’ll do it to you.”

So what use is this passage? Two salvageable bits:

  1. Bad times are sure to come, and often when you least expect them. And especially when overconfidence is the flavor of the day. It happens in markets: dot-com bubble, housing bubble. It happens in government: “mission accomplished.” It happens in religious life: crystal cathedral. It’s no use arguing about whether these ups and downs are divine punishment. Sometimes they are consequences of one’s actions, but just as often, they’re just part of living on the planet. Expect them.
  2. Three of the best ways of dealing with bad times are by responding with faith, hope and love. Even if you did deserve what you got, but especially if you didn’t. Keeping your commitments, keeping your chin up, and reaching out to help someone else get through it. These things go a long way toward improving a bad situation sooner than it otherwise would on its own, alleviating the some of the suffering, and sometimes, keep things from being a lot worse.