Churchill once said: ‘In my life I have had many problems – most of which never happened.’ AndI guess most of us can relate to that feeling of fear of something going wrong, of growing old and not being fit to cope, or of dying too soon, without seeing our unborn grandchildren, of losing our ability to earn an income, or running out of money.
With this in mind I often think of Matthew 6, the so-called Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus said, ‘...do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.’
Jesus was speaking about a worry-free life, but not a trouble-free life, and what he was saying was that he will support and comfort us today as we deal with today’s problems, but there is no provision today for tomorrow’s difficulties.
That appears to be a universal scriptural principle.
There is a form of therapy known as Mindfulness, closely related to CBT, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, from which we can learn much. For example, have you ever been driving along the road when you suddenly realise that for the last three or four or more miles you have been on autopilot, totally unaware of traffic or road signs? Most of us have.
Mindfulness practitioners tell us that that’s how very many people, if not all of us, live their lives; in a state of unawareness – we’re not good at living in the now.
They also remind us, if we need reminding, that if our energies are not focused on the past, with all its regrets and ‘if onlys’ our energies are focussed on the future, with all the associated fears of disappointment and failure.
The problem therefore is that very little energy is available for coping with the difficulties as we live in the now. That leads to stress and anxiety, and we should all know that stress damages the body’s immune system, and that has serious implications for our health.
There’s an interesting example of this in the life of Jesus and his interaction with his friend Martha.
Her brother, Lazarus had just died and Jesus was in conversation with Martha. ‘If only you had been here,’ Martha sobbed, ‘my brother would not have died.’ She was livings in the past.
Jesus answered: ‘Martha, your brother will rise again,’ and Martha replied, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day’. Now she is in the future. And Jesus replied: ‘Martha, I am the resurrection.’
When Jesus said, ‘I am’ he was claiming to be Lord of the now, and I would suggest that our frenetic lives would be so much simpler and stress free if we could only learn not to dwell on the past or long for some utopian future.
The past is gone, and while it can’t be changed it still has the power to damage our present.
The future? Like Churchill, most of the things we worry about will never happen, but when and if they do they will happen in the present and we will have the grace, the courage and the God-given wisdom to deal with them.
Back to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:34): ‘So, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.’