“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34
I like to think of myself as a calm, collected person living in the moment. That’s probably because it’s not so true. I have battled anxiety for as long as I can remember. I’m rather driven, and my goals are usually out in front of me somewhere. And why have goals if they’re not important? Since they’re so important I have to make sure they are successful! It would be devastating if my goals weren’t accomplished. I would be a failure, and other people would see my failure and call me a failure and they would be right. That would be terrible. I have to get ahead of this. I, I, I… I gotta deal with tomorrow today!
As I write this, it feels almost satirical. If only it were. For so many of us, fits of anxiety can be spontaneous and debilitating. Sometimes the anxiety comes first and we tell ourselves stories about why we are so anxious. Sometimes we are so busy we worry that the next ball to drop will do us in. Sometimes we see a future out of our control and grasp at anything today that makes us feel like we can influence tomorrow. Regardless, in our minds and hearts, tomorrow is lived today.
Now, if you think about it, the sheer ability to anticipate future events is a tremendous gift from God. A subtle change in the wind would signal early pioneers in the upper Midwest that a blizzard could be coming. That’s helpful! So, let’s say the wind changes. Now what? Is the blizzard here yet? Is it even a sure thing that the blizzard is coming at all? When we struggle with anxiety, it’s as if we’re living in the blizzard before it ever comes. We can’t live tomorrow today. It’s impossible! So why try? Does it really help to get all worked up? “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Mat. 6:27)
Jesus wants us to live fully in the present. That’s God’s gift to us. He’s given us today…right…now. The moment after he gives it, it’s history. Then we can look back on it and see the gift. God hasn’t given us tomorrow yet. The future belongs to him. We can anticipate the future; we can prepare for the future; but we can’t control the future. That’s God’s job. So, when we get anxious, we are physically reacting to our lack of control. We’re not God, and that can be unsettling at times.
Herein lies the God-given defense against anxiety. Gratitude. Rather than focus on what God hasn’t given us yet, take a look at what he has. God has loved us so much he sent Jesus to die for our sins to give us forgiveness and a life that goes on forever! God blesses us with family and friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, food, shelter and clothes. The breath in our lungs is reason enough to thank God… even while the blizzard rages around us. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Ps. 23:4)
Thank you God!
Seeing God’s faithfulness helps us to look forward with trust, not anxiety. Now, all of this doesn’t mean that we stop preparing for tomorrow. It just means we do so with trust and appreciate God’s provision along the way… which means I shouldn’t get so anxious about my goal that you won’t be so anxious any more. I guess I’ll just have to thank God that he gave me words to put on the page and trust him to work through them. Thank you God!