A small, simple, often quoted piece is wisdom is to live life “one day at a time.” We hear it so often that its truth and power are easily minimized. The phrase is my Dad’s favorite life practice. At 95 years old, he has had plenty of opportunities to put it into practice. Never has it been a greater challenge than in these recent days since my Mom died. After 71 years of marriage, he repeats in these days of grief, “one day at a time.” He means it! He knows from years of practice that he can survive 24 hours.
Jesus knew that same truth. In the Sermon on the Mount, He encouraged people to trust God and not worry. He ended His words of wisdom by saying, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt 6:34)
Interestingly, our ability to practice the mindset of “one day at a time” is bolstered by the right perspective on the past and the future. Unfortunately, we have such a hard time staying in the present because we become mired in the past and worry our way into the future.
Living in the past is like walking through land mines. A slight misstep brings bitterness or resentment. We move to the right, and we encounter regret. To the left is unforgiveness. The Bible suggests an alternate path that brings healthiness and serves our ability to live in the present. Throughout the Bible, God encourages us to “Remember.” We remember God’s faithfulness. We remember His forgiveness. In Communion, we remember Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Through the tough days of our past decade and struggle with Perrin’s cancer, Weezie and I “rehearsed God’s goodness” each day, which was our way of remembering that God is faithful, even when we couldn’t see the path ahead. The right kind of remembering enabled us to survive the difficult present. Bitterness, regret, resentment, and unforgiveness treat the past as indelible wounds from which we will never recover. But God is a redeeming God who redeems our failures and turns our wounds into the means for healing and growth.
Some people are proficient at letting go of the past but clutch onto the compulsion to control the future. This grasping is inevitably experienced as an attempt to carefully manage all of the variables that fly our way each day. Our lives become like air traffic controllers whose only goal is to prevent a crash. The byproduct of this sort of living is perpetual worry and angst. We continuously look over our shoulder, assess risk, and worry about that thing we may have missed that will come back and bite us. Of course, this type of control only partially works at best. We may plan well, which may help our days go smoother, but we are always subject to a world outside of our control.
To this seemingly unsolvable problem, the Bible offers a powerful antidote – hope. The Bible encourages us to hope, not in a specific outcome, but in God who is in control, who loves us, and is on our side. To all of our angst and anxiety, Paul proclaims, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
We thrive in the present when we learn to let go of the past and remember that God is Redeemer. We make it through difficult days when we hope in the future, knowing God is on our side.
God is He who was, and is, and is to come. He heals the past, walks in front of us paving the way in our unknown future, and stands beside us in the challenges of today – one day at a time!
“This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”