Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 6:34b “. . .for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.”
There is no need to try to think ahead and outguess God. Jesus straightforwardly tells us here, there will be clouds in our sky tomorrow. Each new day will have its own current set of problems. We are never promised a bed of roses. Every day has its own difficulties, with new trials and troubles rising up to meet us.
Daily living is an ordeal, an obstacle course. This ever recurring pressure in life is ultimately neither a sinister plot to destroy us nor a demonic ploy against us. Rather, “it is God’s law of Providence that a man shall be disciplined by sorrow” (Maclaren). God allows difficulties in our lives to test our mettle and to refine us.
God, to make sure we are not overwhelmed by the troubles of life, spreads out our trials, distributing them over a lifetime. Since each day is allotted its appointed portion of trouble, worrying today over something yet future will not kill the problem tomorrow. No matter how much we worry, trouble is going to be there at sunrise anyway, waiting to meet us. We will always find ourselves having to be concerned about present matters. We can do nothing to change this reality.
The best way to prepare for tomorrow’s inevitable trouble is by handling today well. As we spend more time fretting over tomorrow, we have less time to do our best today. Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrow, but does empty today of strength (Maclaren). If we worry about the future, today is made worse without tomorrow being made better. Anxiety does not enable us to escape tomorrow’s trial, but does weaken us, making us less prepared to handle it when it does come.
Matt. 6:34c “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
Each day’s “evil,” its misery and trouble, is “sufficient,” enough but not excessive. God promises to give us adequate strength to carry the load of each day’s allotted quota of trouble, but adding another day’s burdens to it crushes us. Today has “sufficient” hardships of its own without borrowing more from tomorrow.
Worry causes us to confront collectively matters we are intended to tackle separately. An old military adage can be adapted to daily living: attempt to break life down into small portions, and conquer in detail. Charles Allen, whose sermons richly aided me in these lessons on worry, tells of an old man who started cutting wood to build a log house. A friend asked, “Isn’t that a big undertaking for a man of your years?” He replied, “It would be if I thought of chopping the trees, sawing the logs, skinning the bark, laying the foundation, erecting the walls, and putting on the roof. Carrying all the load all at once would exhaust me. But it is not so hard to cut down this one tree, and that is all I have to do right now.”
This principle contained in our present text is the genius of Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs. Recovering alcoholics are trained not to worry about tomorrow. They are taught to believe they can make it through this one day. That’s all that is required of them, and that’s all they seek to do.
Most of our worries would vanish if we decided to live one day at a time. This decision entails more than merely leaving off worry about tomorrow. It also includes the resolve to let yesterday be a bygone. We glance at our prior mistakes to learn from them, but apart from this, the past is over, let it be gone, get over it.
While walking one day, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George was asked how he kept his inner composure during the trying days of World War I. Lloyd George, carefully closing the gate he was passing through, replied, “Right here is my secret, I always close the gate behind me and concentrate on where I am walking now.” Brothers and sisters, let’s close the gates on our past. Let it go.
Many Christians cripple themselves by retroactive worry. They wonder, what if I had married someone else, or had decided to live elsewhere, what if I had chosen a different career, or gone to college, etc. What if, what if, what if–stop it! Get a grip. Drink a dose of reality. We fantasize some rosy path we would be walking today had we chosen a different road yesterday. Not true. Troubles and problems line every pathway of life. There is no yellow brick road leading to Oz.
Also realize, we do not know how our current path may end. Maybe it has been extra troublesome thus far, but relief may yet come. The joy and happiness we imagine being on the other trail may actually be awaiting us around the bend.
We are often mortgaging our todays on fabled yesterdays and mythical tomorrows which do not even exist–imagined yesterdays which never did happen, and fantasized tomorrows which never will happen. Alice’s trek through Wonderland is as much a reality as many of our make-believe pasts and futures.
Fictitious yesterdays and unreal tomorrows cripple us today. We allow them to lessen our spiritual efficiency and thus make ourselves less able to get over the real past and to prepare for the real future. If we pile yesterday’s regrets and tomorrow’s troubles on top of today’s burdens, there is no promise anywhere in God’s Word of strength sufficient to carry the load. We thus become victims of our own undoing, causing ourselves to be left on our own to sink beneath the load.
God had a merciful reason for dividing our lives into these small units we call days. The Lord kindly brings down on each day the friendly curtain of night.
Learn to heed God’s ordained sunset limit. To avoid bitterness, let none of today’s anger go beyond the sunset (EP 4:26); to avoid despair, let none of tomorrow’s troubles come across the sunset. Anger and worry can be seriously crippled–yea, made almost nonexistent–if we keep our thoughts within the sunset limit.
Live one day at a time, resting in this blessed assurance. Between today’s sunrise and sunset, absolutely nothing can happen to us that would bring more weight upon us than what God has promised to give us ample strength to bear.