Stress. Anxiety. Discontentment. Depression. What do these four words have in common?
These four words spawn from the common human problem of failing to live in Today. By stressing, we look to the future with apprehension. Anxiety is caused by fear of what lies ahead. Humans are discontent because they think the future may hold something better. When the future disappoints us, it causes depression.
Failing to Act in Today
One of my favorite verses in the Bible talks about the importance of living in Today.
“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”-Hebrews 3:12-13
In illustration of this point, William J. Bennett’s story called "The Magic Thread" tells the story of a boy, who always wanted to be at a different point in his life. He received a ball with the thread of life, and every time he pulled on the thread, he could skip to the next best part. This boy skipped through the hard parts of life trying to get to the parts he wanted to live, and before he knew it, he was an old man, disappointed.
That boy was not living in Today. He always looked at Tomorrow and how he could be happy Tomorrow. I’m a lot like him because I imagine that in a couple of years I’ll have more time to work on reading my Bible. In a couple of years I’ll magically become kinder. The flip side to this type of thinking is worrying about Tomorrow. Will I have enough money Tomorrow? Will I meet Mr. Right Tomorrow? What about all these things I have to do Tomorrow?
Destroying Today’s Joy
In Matthew, Jesus specifically mentions worry.
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather in barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?”-Matthew 6:25-27
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”-Matthew 6:31-34
Sometimes I worry about the future that won’t happen. I imagine what life would be like if I had born in Africa with AIDS. How horrible, and how silly for me to worry about something that cannot happen. Or I wonder if great tragedy will befall me years from now when I become paralyzed from the waist down, blind and deaf. Or, I worry about something that will happen in class weeks from now, that I can do nothing about. All these cause me to feel depressed and afraid. I am not living in Today.
There’s a song by Tim McGraw called “Live Like You Were Dying” that tells the story of a man who finds out he’s dying and starts living more, forgiving more, and loving more. I think there’s a good message there. I want to live each day as though it were my last. Jesus talks about the need to be ready for his return at all times (Matthew 25:1-13). You can’t do that if you’re waiting for Tomorrow, because Today will come and you won’t be ready.
Practically speaking, what can I do about this?
First, I can prioritize. What duties do I need to think about Today? Which ones can I put out of my head for the time being? I know I need to finish my quilt, but it isn’t going to happen while I’m working and in school. This is a task that I don’t need to stress about Today.
All those character traits I’ve been waiting for Tomorrow to work on, can be worked on Today. I can smile at the grumpy lady down the hall Today. I can be cheerful even when my head aches Today. I can joyfully serve my family Today. I don’t need to wait until Tomorrow for any of these things.
Although Yoda isn’t a great philosopher by any stretch of the imagination, he did say something in The Empire Strikes Back that applies.
“A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing.”
I know it’s silly, but I spend a lot of time imagining terrible hypothetical situations. However likely or unlikely these situations, I need to remember the most important fact: God will never leave me nor forsake me. Nothing can separate me from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). Ultimately that’s why I shouldn’t worry, because I never can lose that which is most important: Jesus Christ.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Posted by the traveler at 5:58 PM