And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. (New International Version)
If we’re honest with God, we acknowledge that we often worry a lot about tomorrow and how our needs will be met.
Every day we send God moribund signals that our heads are not in the moment, and that our hearts are not into today. We fret about the future, leaving us profoundly discontent. So, we do busywork, distract ourselves with social media, and numb ourselves with spirits rather than turn to the Holy Spirit – all in the futile attempt to reduce the racing thoughts in our heads.
Far too many of us fail to enjoy the present moment. Our minds are someplace else.
Contented people do not find their happiness in far-off places, in someday being able to acquire the things they desire, or in having a laser-like orientation to achieving a future goal. Instead, they find contentment in their present circumstances.
Those living without fear and eschewing worry have discovered that happiness is not found in a new job, a new car, a new spouse, or a new anything.
Focusing on the present does not mean ignoring the past or neglecting the future; it just means we are to put our primary attention on living in the here and now rather than on a romanticized future free of doubt, insecurity, and uncertainty.
If we are not present to the here and now, we either get stuck in the past or continually worry about the future. Everything then becomes either about recapturing some bygone era or of dreaming about some idyllic future state – buying into the wrongheaded notion that whenever I get out of school, or get married, or have kids, or get the job I want, or the kids leave home, or I retire, then all will be good, and I shall finally have contentment.
Planning for the future is wise, good, and necessary; worrying about it and neglecting the present is bad.
Whenever we rush through the present to get to the future, we lose what God wants to do for us now. It takes flow, mindfulness, and savor to fully engage the present.
“Flow” is a psychological term that means “being in the zone,” that is, to be actively involved in the present situation with focused attention.
“Mindfulness” means to be aware of your present surroundings, and to especially be aware of your present state of mind and emotions; it is to pay attention to all that is within you and around you.
To “savor” something is to enjoy it so much that you want it to last forever. It is to be slow, deliberate, and enjoyable. It’s about the journey, not just the destination.
Flow, mindfulness, and savor are what Jesus asked us to do. Christ wants us to stop and smell the roses. He wants us to give focused attention to what is currently in front of us; to be mindful of all the wonder of creation that presently surrounds us; and, to take the time to simply savor and enjoy it all.
Once I was in a bible study with a group of people and the family’s dog kept licking a particular person to the point of distraction. Finally, I said to the group: “What do you think God is trying to tell us through the dog?” We ended up having a very enlightening conversation on our own relationships with God and one another.
We are to be present to today.
When we realize life is short, we will not waste it on worrying about the future. Although we don’t know about tomorrow, we do know about today. And today we are to enjoy God’s good gifts to us in the here and now.
So, teach us to consider our mortality,
so that we might live wisely. (Psalm 90:12, NET)
The wise way to live is one day at a time. That was God’s message through the prophet Jeremiah to the exiled Israelites. The ancient Jews kept spending their time reminiscing about the past and wishing for a better future. So, God told them what to do in their exile:
“Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:5-7, NLT)
Being content means to enjoy today, to savor the present moment God has you in, even if you don’t like where you are right now.
So go eat your food and enjoy it;
drink your wine and be happy,
because that is what God wants you to do.
Put on nice clothes
and make yourself look good.
Enjoy life with the wife you love. Enjoy all the useless days of this useless life God has given you here on earth, because it is all you have. So, enjoy the work you do here on earth. Whatever work you do, do your best, because you are going to the grave, where there is no working, no planning, no knowledge, and no wisdom. (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10, NCV)
Appreciate God’s simple gifts
Sometimes we look so hard for a future miracle, and want out from the circumstance we are in, that we fail to experience contentment in the present time. We are to enjoy the simple pleasures of life which God gives to us, even within our adversity.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Philippians 4:12, NIV)
No matter what is going on in our lives, whether good or not, we can still appreciate a beautiful sunset, a good book, a walk on the beach, time with friends, good food, and a host of other simple gifts which God provides for us on a daily basis. Yet, we must stop long enough to experience and enjoy them.
Remember to celebrate
We are meant to celebrate life. The genuineness of Christianity is seen whenever Christians throw the best parties and have the most fun.
Someday we are all going to die. Rather than this being a downer, it is an opportunity to ponder an important question: Will you celebrate the time you have here on this earth and enjoy it?
It’s not hedonistic (living for pleasure) to enjoy life and have a party. It’s actually a biblical thing to do. A spirit of celebration is a Christian spirit.
Work with enthusiasm
Dive in and enjoy your work. We end up worrying whenever our focus is on the destination. However, the real point of life is to enjoy the journey and the process. Be present to your work now and enjoy a job well done for the day, instead of looking forward to a fatter paycheck and a better job in the future.
Engage in work with joyful abandon, and not with compulsive perfectionism (which is joyless and life-draining). Find ways of enjoyment within the kind of work that may be draining and not very exciting. Every job has mundane repetitive work to it. Yet, how we go about that work is significant.
If the here-and-now is not the best time of your life, then you and I need to be mindful to the words of Jesus because our focus is somehow misplaced. Contented people focus on the present, what is happening now, today, and they do not worry about tomorrow because that future state is the responsibility of God.
Ever-present God, enlarge my heart to receive more of your grace and contentment. Rescue me from my small thoughts of your love and goodness. Free me from any unbelief and uncover my many fears. May I rest secure in the knowledge that you are good and everything you do is right, just, and fair. Amen.