Living in the Present- by Raegan Allen
If you’re like me, living in the present can be a bit of a challenge. My mind’s natural state seems to be one of worry about the future, something I am constantly trying to remedy. The pandemic made the future even more uncertain, causing my plan-crazy psyche to go a little insane. As things slowly start to return to normal, I’ve been investigating my tendency to worry alongside scripture in order to form healthier habits for dealing with uncertainty. Today I’d like to share a few of my findings.
Psalm 131 is one of my all-time favorite psalms, for worry especially. Whenever I find myself in a tizzy over something, I try to remind myself of David’s soothing words:
My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
Things too wonderful for me. What does that mean? Shouldn’t I spend time thinking about wonderful things? Well, yes, but David isn’t referring to a beautiful sunset or an ice cream cone on a summer day. The operative word here is too. David is vowing to not spend time thinking of things that are beyond his grasp as a human being. One of these “too wonderful” things — unfortunately for all the “planners” out there, like myself — is the future. As mere mortals, our futures are always uncertain to us. We plan and plan and plan, but the older I get, the more I realize that even my best-laid plans can fly out the window at any moment. Things just happen. Rather than ruminate about an endless string of possibilities or worry about all the bad things that could (but probably won’t) happen, God wants us to live in the moment. God wants us to be present, content, and full of gratitude. David goes on to write:
Indeed, I have calmed and quieted myself
like a weaned child with its mother;
I am content like a young child.
When you were a kid, were you constantly ruminating and worrying about the future? I know I wasn’t. The furthest into the future my little mind ventured was dinner time — were we having chicken nuggets or mac and cheese? Tomorrow was a loose concept at best. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, this calm was a result of trust. I trusted that my mom would wake me up for school in the morning and pack me a PB&J. I trusted that I would have clean clothes to wear and enough toothpaste and a ride to school. I now realize I am incredibly blessed to have had these things, but at the time, they seemed like a given. I don’t need to worry because my parents are going to take care of me. While it may seem unrealistic to return to this level of peace, we must at least try to channel some of our childhood calm in our adult lives. Why? Because as adults, we should be relying on God just as completely as we relied on our parents as kids. Take a look at what Jesus says during the Sermon on the Mount in the sixth chapter of Matthew.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? 26 Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? 27 And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life? 28 Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! 30 And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith? 31 So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.
This is another passage I find myself returning to all the time. Jesus commands us not to worry, assuring us again and again that He knows about our needs, and He is more than equipped to take care of them. God wants us to sleep easy knowing that tomorrow is no sweat, He’s got it. When we were kids, the future was certainly “too wonderful” for us to comprehend. And while we may try to convince ourselves otherwise, the future is still God’s domain, not ours. God wants us to trust Him like I trusted my mom with the PB&J. Only then can we truly live in the present, and live in peace.
I realize this is easier said than done. Of course we should trust God more, but how do we actually do it? The two most effective ways are to read God’s word and pray. Remind yourself of times in the Bible that God came through for His people (Spoiler Alert: it’s every single time). Pray for greater faith and trust, and the inner peace that comes with them.
Another way to increase your trust is to practice gratitude. Make a list (either mentally or written/typed out) of ten things you’re thankful for in the morning, evening, or both. Try to ponder at least two of these things in-depth, and really dwell on their positive presence in your life. I also like to ask myself What is going great in your life right now? and try to list as many things as I can. This is a great exercise that pulls me from my anxious thoughts and grounds me in the present, right where God wants me. Gratitude is one of the quickest ways to combat worry and stress. Think of all the times God has come through in your own life, and all the blessings He has freely given you. Reminding yourself that God has never failed you in the past will make it a lot easier to trust Him with your future.
Because we’re human, we are never going to be perfect. Even when we practice gratitude and foster greater trust and contentment, the future and its uncertainties can still seem daunting. However, I have good news for you. Even if your absolute worst case scenario occurs tomorrow (which it probably won’t — not trying to scare you), God has you. Let us remind ourselves of Christ’s words in John 10:29:
My Father, who has given them [believers] to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.
Yeah. Go ahead and read that one again. No one can remove us from God’s hand. Nothing can separate us from His love and blessings. THAT is why we should trust in Him. That is why we should be grateful, content, and tranquil. Since we are of the flesh, we must constantly strive towards this level of faith. But if we do our part, we can be absolutely sure that God is going to do His.