Friday, May 2, 2014

Do Not Worry About Tomorrow

There are certain hardships that we cannot avoid, hardships that we dread going through again. These could be trips to the dentist, hospital, public speaking engagements, a recurring injury or illness, and so on.

We may watch the approach of the hardship (eg, the date of the dentist’s appointment), with fear and trepidation, desperate to avoid it yet knowing we cannot. We wonder how we can get through the ordeal when we cannot even bare to think of it.

I had a very sickly childhood, often coming down with tonsillitis, bronchitis, bronchilitis, and very painful middle ear infections. When I came down with one of these illnesses again, I knew from my previous experiences what I was about to go through. A burning throat would lead to a high fever, sometimes exceeding 40ÂșC and often accompanied by deliriousness. Complications typically followed such as infected sinuses, a chest infection, or a middle ear infection. If I contemplated what I was about to go through, it was too heavy for me.

Instead, once the sickness took hold me of me, I would say to myself, “In a few days, I will be better, this will all be over, and life will go back to normal. I will walk outside into a sky full of sunshine, with this sickness behind me.” This hope greatly comforted me and helped me to endure the trial.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

As well as keeping my gaze fixed on being well again instead of worrying about the suffering yet to come, I prayed to Jesus throughout each day that I lay sick in bed, asking Him to help me through each moment. He was my refuge in the midst of these storms.

He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; He offers strength to the weak. Isaiah 40:29

I concentrated on living one hour at a time, without worrying about what would come next. The hours added up and the day would pass. Then I concentrated on living one day at a time without worrying about the next day’s sufferings. The days added up and finally the sickness was gone. Then I would walk outside into a sunny day, and rejoice in the Lord.

What did Jesus say regarding worrying about the future?

Matthew 6:25 – 34 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

I dealt with trips to the dentist in the same way. (I really do not like going to the dentist.) Instead of brooding fearfully about the approaching dentist’s appointment, I took each preceding day one day at a time. And when I finally I sat in the dentist’s chair I would tell myself, “In thirty minutes or so this will all be over. Then I will walk out of the dentist’s smiling with joy because it’s over.” Focusing on the sense of relief and elation that would come when it was over helped me to get through the procedure, rather than focusing on the procedure itself.

The Lord’s wonderful advice sets us free from worrying about the future. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:35

This is a very effective strategy for coping with depression as well. Take it one day at a time, trusting in Jesus to strengthen us and help us through that day, rather than constantly fearing what the future may hold.

We do not need to carry tomorrow’s burdens today. When we get to ‘tomorrow,’ Jesus will be there, ready to help us deal with them.

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    1. Peter, I wish you knew how much I needed this very message. You always minister to me - but today you completely touched my heart and anxieties.

    2. Thanks Joanne, and praise our wonderful God for his perfect timing. I've been working on this post since Monday, but somehow could not get it to come together until this afternoon. Praying for your family.
      God bless :)

    3. If we live with one foot in the past (fear and shame from past events) and one foot in the future (fear and dread of what could happen), we aren't living in the present God has given us. We rob and enjoy that could be ours today. Good thoughts in your post.

    4. Fear distorts our vision. It is as if we can see only the distractions in the periphery and we miss the focus straight ahead.
      Our preoccupation with the unnecessary causes us to lose the sensation of the hand that is guiding us.

      Our fear is unfounded for He has never left our side. We just got distracted by the pointless.

      First time here, I have enjoyed my visit.


    5. So true. Sometimes my depression gets better when I can see a plan for the week or even for the day. But often I spend too much time planning and not enough time actually "doing" anything! UGH! (which then just fuels my depression - sitting around doing nothing) However, if I could sit and focus on being content in the moment - I know that God would minister to my heart.

    6. Thank you Peter, for allowing God to use you. He ministered to me just now and I relinquish all thoughts of tomorrow and the next few months because He'll take care of it. And if He doesn't, then that's how He wanted it to turn out. Whatever the future holds, He holds the future in His hands. I've been on edge over a particular concern since January that should have been sorted out long before now. It is still pending and I'm worn out for worrying. Now, through your post God reminds me to rest in Him and He'll sort it out.

    7. Thanks for your comment, Warren, you've made a great point. Dwelling on the past can destroy our ability to live in 'today' as much as fearing the future.

      Hi Denise,
      Thanks for visiting the blog. What you said about fear distorting our vision is spot on. A friend who had experienced depression told me, “We can’t see properly in times like this. Our feelings completely distort our world view and vision.” It feels like God has left us or abandonned us, but as you said, He never left our side.

      Hi Shane,
      Sitting around and doing nothing is a certified fuel for feeding depression, I learned that one the hard way too. Being busy with constructive acitivities helps so much. One of the best such activities that helped me when depressed was writing. I wrote three novels that will never see the light of day, but they helped me a lot. Regarding planning, setting small goals that are easily accomplished are a good way to start.

      Thanks for sharing your heart Lilly. God really does hold your future in His hands, however it turns out. Praying that the Lord will sustain you through this time, and that you can give the burden to Jesus to carry instead of carrying it yourself.

    8. Peter, This message is for everyone. I so often tend to make my circumstances bigger than they are, whether it be a hectic schedule, a dreaded conversation, conflict, insecurity, whatever. And just like Peter walking on the sea, I only succeed when my eyes and my faith are focused fully on Jesus.

      thank you, brother!

    9. Amen Peter. Thank you for posting this powerful reminder! I so much appreciated your visit and your kind and encouraging words to me! Blessings to you dear one!

    10. I have always felt abandoned. It never changes. Each day is worse than the one before. Why are evil people so blessed? The evil ones who have harmed me continue to be blessed each day while I am caused pain and harm day after day. I truly have been abandoned by God.

    11. Dear Anonymous,
      I know it often seems like those who turn their backs on God are blessed while we Christians suffer endlessly, but if we read Psalm 73, we will see the truth. (I have pasted some of it below.)

      1 Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
      2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.
      3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
      4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.
      5 They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills.
      13 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.
      14 All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.
      16 When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me 17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.
      21 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,
      22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. 23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
      24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
      26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.

    12. I am in a hopeless situation and quite frankly I see no light ahead. I have no hopes of a better future.

      1. Dearest Anonymous
        I pray that the Lord Jesus will touch your heart and give you hope. Hope in Him, for a life to live with and in Him, and also hope for a future that He hold in His hands. May I encourage you to read the Psalms, and see how the Lord gives hope and meets the needs of the Psalmist even when he is at his wits end.
        God bless

    13. I hope that by now Anonymous has seen that their situation was not hopeless. I have been in a seemingly "hopeless" situation myself, and it turned into a whole new life for me that I never dreamed possible. I have always been a worrier, and so regret how much of the present it has robbed from me.