What’s going to happen tomorrow? What job will I get when I leave uni? How will I finish my assignments on time? where will I be in five years? What if I fail? What if nobody wants to employ me? What if I get a job and discover I’m not good enough to do it? What if I stay single forever? Will I get married? What’s the worst that could happen?
These are questions that come to me, and for the most part they are unhelpful. They can pull us down and drag us into a place of fear, a place of productivity and a place where so much time is spend thinking about me and what I’m going to do, I don’t spend any time thinking about God. If I spent more time thinking about God, these questions wouldn’t seem like a burden.Instead of thinking ‘Where will I be in five years?’, I find it better to think ‘Wherever I will be in five years, God will be with me’.
We can (or maybe I’m just talking about myself), spend so much time planning our ideal future, what we want to do and where we want to go and what we want to achieve, but really does it matter? In truth, we don’t even know what will happen tomorrow: we don’t know who we might meet, what random events might happen, whether things will be rescheduled last minute. How then do we think we can plan out our future? James brings us down to earth saying ‘Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.’ (James 4:14).
At a glance this is far from encouraging, but he continues to say ‘Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that”’ (James 4:15). Jesus tells us that we should ‘seek first the kingdom’, and that in doing so everything else will fall into place, that we should therefore “not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:33-34). When we look and worry about the future, what will be and what wont, it can seem like it’s all depending on what we do this second! One wrong move and the butterfly effect will be in full swing destroying all our hopes. But this, is not true.
Jesus tells us, and James tells us, that we should focus on one day at a time. One step at a time. If we’re trusting in God, I guarantee he will lead us to green pastures, and we will not be disappointed. The future isn’t happening now. God however, has gone ahead, he has prepared the way, when we follow him day by day we can be secure knowing that. I find it helpful to just stop, take a breath and ask ‘What does God want me to do in this moment’. Sometimes it’s to rest, sometimes to read, sometimes to crack on with my essay.
‘But Alex, what about proverbs 3:6? It tells me to tell God what I want in the future and he’ll help me do it’ (In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.) Well let’s take a look; the first phrase is to acknowledge God in all our ways. Have you invited God, and checked what you are doing with God through prayer and discipleship? If yes, then great! Now let’s look at the previous verse, and the verse after: ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight’ (Proverbs 3:5) and ‘Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil’ (Proverbs 3:7). Acknowledging the Lord is not just letting him in on your plans, it’s opening them up to his correction. God gives us passions and talents to do certain things, absolutely, but sometimes we can go about them in the wrong way.
Proverbs 16:3 is similar ‘Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans’, but commiting is not simply telling. If you are in a committed relationship, you have not gone up to someone and said ‘I am going to be with you and we are going to do things the way I want’, you engage in conversations about the best way to move forward together. It is when we do this with God, that he walks with us, a step at a time.
Sometimes however, when I see other succeeding and moving forwards I get impatient or jealous, I start thinking ‘what are they doing that I’m not? why don’t I have what they do?’. Well in answer to that I’d like to respond with Psalm 37:3-7 and 23-24.
‘Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.’
‘The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand’ (Psalm 37:23-24).
I will end with this: whatever we may want in this life, we should know that in Jesus we already have boundless and unfathomable riches, endless and incalculable treasures available to us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:8 using various translations). In Jesus we already have everything we could ever need. We don’t need to strive for the things of this earth, we are already rich beyond understanding in Him. So when worries come I find it helpful to stop, remember what I already have in Christ and who I am in Him, to remind myself the future isn’t now and only God can see and guide me through it, the burden isn’t on us, commit your ways (trust God with your plans) and he will make our paths straight. Though we may stumble we will not fall. let us take each day as it comes, step by step.