There are so many bad things that can happen. And some bad things could somewhat realistically happen. Not being naïve is one thing, but when trying to be ‘prepared’ and ‘prudent’ turns into a nebulous cloud of ‘What ifs?’ that speak violence to our very self, then we’ve allowed practicality to give way to the devil’s hassles.
This is because the future, as it can present itself to our minds, doesn’t really exist. If we start to live there, we are not living in reality. God’s name is not ‘I will be’, his name is I am. I once had a conversation with David Macari (an Ann Arbor i.d.916 regular and good friend) who stated, “It’s easier to go through anything than to think about going through it.” Anything – even torture. That’s because when you go through something, you are in the I am, you can choose to go through it with God, just like the sparrow falling to the ground. But in just imagining or dreading some possibility, we are only herniating out into a nowhere, a no-man’s-land where the hyenas prowl, the claws are sharp and God says, “Come back from the future and it’s potential anxieties, into the present where I am!”
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. (Matt 6:34)
Sadly, this is an area where ‘the world’ (Eph. 2:2-3; 1 John 2:16) can be our enemy. Insurance-obsessed and infused by technology (which is an attitude and way of being that seeks to control and thus can be antithetical to trust), the world tells us to eliminate risk or else…
The ideal at which technical progress is aiming is that of bringing into being a privileged realm: one on which [the] impingements of the ‘unpredictable’ will no longer have any effect, and where guarantees of security will be utterly reliable… We might even ask whether the man who lives as a servant of technical progress does not come to regard life as a technique… Given such a point of view, how could such a man fail to claim for himself the right to interfere with the onflow of life, just as one dams up a river? Before he decides to start a baby “on the way”, he will make careful calculations, just as if he were buying a motorcycle; he will try to estimate the annual expense as exactly as possible; foreseeing illnesses and doctors’ bills in one case; wear and tear and garage expenses in the other. Fairly frequently, instead of a baby, he will decide, by way of economy, on a little dog… Experience seems to show us that as soon as a preoccupation with security begins to dominate human life, the scope of human life itself tends to be diminished. Life, as it were, tends to shrink back on itself, to whither. (Gabriel Marcel)
As always a balanced approach is needed. Yes, thoughts directed toward the future are part of a healthy life. Hope itself is future-oriented. But, true hope can only be done in the present. Hope is love (in the present) looking into the future; and it is experienced as longing, confidence and trust – not dread.
Hope consists in asserting that there is at the heart of [reality], beyond all data, beyond all inventories and all calculations, a mysterious principle which is in connivance with me, which cannot but help will that which I will, if what I will deserves to be willed and is, in fact, willed by the whole of my being. (Gabriel Marcel)
When our relationship with the future comes under any kind of dominion that is not trust, hope, longing and “pressing forward to attain the goal” (Phil. 3:14), anxiety is not far away. Really, the devil rarely ever wants us in the present. He wants us in the past, where thoughts turn to regret or escaping the present, or the future, where thoughts turn to anxious, nebulous, dreadful fears.
There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them… It is your business to see that the patient never thinks of the present fear as his appointed cross, but only of the things he is afraid of… resignation to present and actual suffering, even where that suffering consists of fear… is usually helped by [the Enemy’s] direct action. (The Screwtape Letters, the whole of chapter 6 is about this topic)
(Okay, the real enemy is sin. But, this is still a worthwhile quote.)
Our worst fears lie in anticipation. Let’s pray for freedom from ‘what ifs’. Let’s resist the temptation to give way to an anxious dread. Jesus, Emmanuel, is God with us. Instead, let’s strive to fix our hope firmly on the promise of the Father revealed in Jesus, returning to the present where only I AM!