Recently I was talking to a girl who told me she was suffering from depression. I had just given a talk where I’d mentioned that I had struggled with depression some years ago, and she felt encouraged to share with me her own struggles. Everyone’s journey is unique and I was careful not to imply that my own struggles with depression made me any kind of expert. After listening to her I volunteered this comment: “I am not worried about you for the long term. You should be ok and indeed will probably be used by God to help others in depression. But you need to survive the short term.” We cannot live in the future, irrespective of whether we are looking forward to it or not. The only day we have, the only day we are responsible for, is today. Real time.
Frederick Buechner captures this truth eloquently in his book, Hungering Dark. He writes:
Much as we wish, not one of us can bring back yesterday or shape tomorrow. Only today is ours, and it will not be ours for long, and once it is gone it will never in all time be ours again. Thou only knowest what it holds in store for us, yet even we know something of what it will hold. The chance to speak the truth, to show mercy, to ease another’s burden. The chance to resist evil, to remember all the good times and good people of our past, to be brave, to be strong, to be glad. (Hungering Dark, San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1985.)
Buechner is not saying that we do not remember the past. He talks about remembering “good times and good people.” Indeed it is in remembering and reflecting that our faith and wisdom are nurtured, especially when we remember and reflect upon our lives in the light of Scripture. But we cannot live in the past. And surely it is wise to plan for the future, but we cannot live there either. Life is doled out to us a day at a time.
Jesus Himself tells us not to be anxious about tomorrow in His teaching on worry.
For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:32–34 NIV)
We are to be responsible for today.
Jesus teaches us how to live our days. We are to live our days trusting in our loving heavenly Father, and seeking His kingdom and righteousness. We begin each day thanking God for the gift of a new day and asking Him how we are to live that day, fully trusting in Him and committed to His agenda. The day unfolds with its joys and struggles but, at the end of the day, we come to the end of our shift, we take off our harness, and we welcome the mini-Sabbath of sleep. Tomorrow is another day.
I have been spending time with my pastor. He lost Jordan, his eighteen-year-old son, to cancer recently (https://graceworks.com.sg/lessons-from-the-book-of-job/). He and the rest of his family are in deep grief. Quietly I tell them that it will slowly get better, that they will never forget Jordan but healing will come. There will be no shortcuts. They have to walk through the valley to get out the other side. They will reach that place of healing, step by step, day by day, and initially it will be like walking on broken glass on bare feet. It will be a long journey, but even the longest journey is travelled a day at a time.
How could we live if life were not divided into daily portions? If the portions were any bigger we would not be able to cope. We would be crushed by the joy or the pain. Thank God we live day by day.
Day by day
Day by day
Oh Dear Lord
Three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly
Day by day
(“Day by Day”, Godspell, Stephen Schwartz, 1971)