One of the biggest problems we have in our culture is our extreme future orientation. We simply don’t have time to enjoy today, because we are always thinking about tomorrow. One indication of our extreme future orientation is how much money we spend on insurance of every kind. There is wisdom in being insured for the future, but sometimes it can make us focus on future negative scenarios, robbing us of today’s joy. Have you caught yourself playing the “What if?” game? What if this happens? What will I do? In this future-oriented mind game, we constantly replay various negative scenarios that might come to pass. This game keeps us from enjoying the present.
My wife and I have recently entered the empty nest season of life. We could have a future orientation that focuses on possible negative scenarios or we could decide to focus on the present, daily joys of this new season of marriage. What we decide to focus on will determine if this becomes one of the most special times of our married life or if it becomes a negative season of worry. If I can learn to pay full attention to my wife, I believe this season could become just as enjoyable as being newlyweds.
Another mind game we often play is the “When—Then” game: When I get that better job or that new house, then I will be happy. This game is more positive than the “What If” game, but it still keeps your thoughts too focused in the future and not in the present. We can easily forget that we are living, right now, in the time we will probably someday call the “good ole days.” I was surprised, watching the final episode of the TV show The Office, when one of the actors asked, “Why can’t we realize we are actually in the ‘good ole days’ when we are in them?” Why? Because we are not fully present in the present, enjoying the beauty and blessing of the here and now. We do have the power to be fully present now and to decide to be happy now, leaving the future up to God. James warns us about living too far in the future:
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 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 4:13–14)
REFLECTIONS: How often do you think about the future, is it too much? Do you worry often about future negative scenarios or are you mostly hopeful and positive about the future? What distracts you the most about the future? Can you think of a simple daily prayer to pray, asking God to help you stay present in the present?
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.