Fear of Tomorrow Sucks Joy From Today
As a kid I was blessed with a lot of success in sports: team championships, great personal performances, cheers from the cheerleaders I had a crush on and adulation from peers and fans. I was even on local and national TV! But sadly, I remember very little of any of it. I have some vague recollections and only a few specific pictures in my head. The rest are memories formed from what people tell me, what I see on video, or read in newspaper clippings.
You are probably wondering, “Why can’t Karl remember?” Here is the reality of my childhood: Most of my identity was wrapped up in being a gifted and accomplished athlete or student. I received lots of attention, and sports greased the path for many friendships, privileges and opportunities. But on the downside, I was anxious and lived in a constant state of fear of failure. If success won me all these nice elements, then, in my warped mind, failure would cause me to lose these very same elements—attention, friendships, opportunities, special privileges, and most importantly, my identity.
So I was always living in the future, wondering what would happen if I didn’t perform well. “Today’s success is history and I am only as good as my next performance,” was the tape in my head and the mentality that drove me to succeed. But it robbed me of the joy of reveling in the moment.
I rarely enjoyed the great things that were happening in the moment, and that pattern continued into early adulthood. I remember being at an amusement park with my kids, whipping around on a fun ride. But while I was riding, I was thinking about the future. Which ride would be the best to try next? Where would the shortest line be? When should we eat lunch to avoid the long lines? The ride I was on would end and I wouldn’t even remember it or enjoy it as much as I could have. I didn’t want to fail as a dad, so I was always thinking ahead to maximize success to try and keep one step ahead of the exaggerated consequence of “failure.”
If you try to carry tomorrow’s trouble today, you will stagger under the load, and eventually fall flat. Focusing on tomorrow’s troubles allows you to avoid the present, which is irresponsible. Each day of your life is a gift from God. What does it say to God when you squander His gifts? Of course, you cannot stop thinking about tomorrow altogether. That, too, would be irresponsible. The real question is: where do you live most of the time—in the present or in the future? Thankfully, I have learned to live more in the present and my memory banks are now full of great experiences. Satan wants you to think you are a future-teller who should spend time predicting or managing the future, instead of resting in God’s sovereignty and grace now.
Today, when you feel stressed, anxious or angry—STOP. Ask yourself, “Am I living in the future, playing out worst case scenarios? Or am I living in the present and enjoying God’s amazing grace right now?” Freedom comes from accepting His gifts and living them—every day. Focus on the present. Why does God have you in this particular place? Enjoy His blessings, and yes, they are all blessings. Most importantly, try to reflect and dig into your heart as to why you have these worries. What lies are in your heart, smudging your lenses and generating fears that divert you from God’s power, grace and love. Whether you enjoy the gift of the present or you live in a warped future, it’s your decision, so choose well.
Dear Father God, I rejoice in You, Father, and Your great gift to me of Your Son, my savior and sovereign Lord. It is through You that I will go to great heights, transcending all the troubles of yesterday and tomorrow. Help me to keep my focus on today, even though at times this is very difficult for me. I try to focus on tomorrow’s problems to avoid pain or facing today’s problems. I know You see my every thought, Father, so You know how many of them are future-oriented. I pray that You will help me break this deeply ingrained habit. I pray in the name of my savior, Jesus. And all God’s children say AMEN!
The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills. Habakkuk 3:19
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:34