Sunday, May 16, 2010

In Your Patience Possess Ye Your Souls

I'd never noticed this verse in the Gospel of Luke (21:19): "In your patience, possess ye your souls."

It appears in the context of an extended discussion of the Second Coming. It's a passage with some special significance for me, because of the text in verse 26 where Christ describes "men's hearts failing them for fear," because there's an allusion to that text in my patriarchal blessing, promising me that I would "witness many things" that would "cause fear to enter the hearts of the people of the world," but that I would blessed so as to "not be hindered in carrying on in [my] responsibilities to [my] family and in the service of [my] Heavenly Father."

I've thought a lot about what kind of life I need to live in order to be worthy of such blessings. Christ advised his disciples along those lines:
And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. (verses 34-35)

The part about patience follows a discussion where Christ tells his disciples:
And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. (verses 16-17)
The following verse about how "there shall not an hair of your head perish" is interesting in light of the preceding statement about being "put to death." I guess I would cross reference that with Luke 12: 4-5. There's a difference between dying and perishing.

So essentially Christ is telling us that we could literally have everyone dear to us turn against us, we could literally have everything in this life taken away from us, including life itself. But that which is dearest to us cannot be taken away from us. And then he reveals the key: "In your patience possess ye your souls."

The footnote in the LDS edition of this text clarifies that the Greek word translated as "possess" here can also be translated as "preserve" or "win mastery over." So here Christ presents patience as the virtue that enables us to master ourselves, that will preserve our souls when the world tries to take everything away from us that the world says matters.

I showed this text to my foster son yesterday. He was in tears, in frustration over a certain situation. I tried to explain to him that in every situation in life there are factors you cannot control. You can never control others and their reactions. You can control only your own reactions. And in doing so you can find hope, you bear witness, and you do transform the world around you.

And you prepare yourself to receive Christ at his coming.

2 comments:

Beck said...

My current scripture study is focused on "hope" and how we obtain hope and hold onto that hope that sustains us when all is lost around us.

This post on possessing patience is an answer to a prayer... thanks for the enlightenment.

J G-W said...

Thanks, Beck. Patience and hope definitely go together, hand in glove.