When our children were young, during the weeks preceding Christmas, I watched them as they counted down the days, hours, and minutes until that special moment when the "gifts" were opened. For days they could think of nothing else, everything was secondary to the big event.
I think we all can relate to the feeling of living on the brink of expectation, waiting for something special (new job, wedding, graduation, or special event). This feeling can be exhilarating and fun but when it lasts too long it can become tiring and depressing. Solomon says:
Hope deferred makes the heart sick but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
- Proverbs 13:12
I believe that this is so because when we are in this state of heightened expectation we have a tendency to lose touch with the present, and begin to live in the future. Unfortunately, living in the future is unsatisfying and dangerous to our faith.
In the Thessalonian church, many believed that the return of Christ was imminent and would happen in their lifetime. They lived on the edge of hope all the time and ultimately lost touch with the present to the point where Paul had to admonish them to get back to work, and normal living because their heightened anticipation had led them to forsake the business of everyday affairs.
Now, it is good to hope, dream, plan and anticipate but if we are to avoid being totally absorbed by these things, we need to remember a few simple things:
1. Hope for tomorrow but live in today
We must not allow dreaming, hoping, and planning to sap all of the energy we have so that we have nothing left to deal with today. Jesus says:
So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
- Matthew 6:34
In other words, do not invest all of your energies in worrying about tomorrow but rather use your emotional, physical, and spiritual resources caring for today's problems. I believe if we take care of today's affairs, we are contributing wisely in making tomorrow's dreams come true.
2. Be thankful for what you have today.
Our minds and hearts are sometimes filled with hopes for tomorrow and yet we feel depressed and anxious. This is because dreaming and hoping does not satisfy us. Satisfaction comes from praise, from prayer, from thanksgiving for hopes and dreams that have come true, not the ones still in the future. A healthy view of our blessings and a continuous outpouring of thanks to God in prayer and praise, this is edifying and satisfying. We need hope and plans and dreams - yes, but let's not allow these things to replace gratitude as the central emotion in our hearts for what God has given us today.
3. Seek first the kingdom
"Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you."
- Matthew 6:33
Underline that word first. Make the seeking of God's kingdom and will a priority today, and this will guide and guarantee the nature and possession of our dreams tomorrow. After all, what good is it to hope and dream for something against God's will? Our ultimate hope, and the substance of our dreams is to be with God in heaven so our plans should follow a course that points us in this direction.
Seeking the kingdom today will help set our sights on goals and dreams along the line that will finally see us with God at the end. Seeking the kingdom helps us to properly set our sights on goals and dreams that are worthy of disciples of Jesus.
So to summarize, hoping and dreaming causes us to live on the edge, and even though this experience is pleasant, it also causes anxiety and discouragement. In order to balance our hopes for tomorrow with the reality of life we experience now, let us remember to:
- Live within today. Take care of today's affairs today.
- Consciously recognize and be grateful for what you have today.
- Make the seeking of the kingdom your first priority every single day.
I believe that if we follow these simple suggestions, we will be able to live satisfying and joyful lives every day regardless of what happens tomorrow.
- What is the hardest type of "waiting" you've experienced? Why is this difficult?
- What is difficult about living only in today? How have you managed to accomplish this (or not)?
- Aside from heaven itself, what other spiritual things do you look forward to?