Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota
a woman thoughfully reading a book

Devotional: Is the future a substitute for the present?

Added on Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Written by Ashley Grossman, online communications manager at The Salvation Army Northern Division

“Can one make the future a substitute for the present? And what guarantee have we that the future will be any better if we neglect the present?”

I recently ran across these questions asked by Anne Morrow Lindbergh in her book “Gift from the Sea.” The words were nothing short of a gut check.

I’m a planner and always have been. Whether that’s plotting out the details of my next hiking adventure in the great outdoors or prioritizing my project list for the week, it’s a thrill for me to think about where I’m headed. Oh, to dream about the future.

But when I was reading Gift from the Sea, Lindbergh’s two questions practically jumped off the page and that got me thinking. Why do we spend so much time thinking about tomorrow instead of enjoying God’s gifts today?

From a young age, we wish for things only obtained in the future. When we are little, we desire to be older. “I can’t wait until I can drive. I can’t wait until I’m in college. I can’t wait until I’m an adult,” are phrases we’ve all said at least once. At what point did we ever want to stay a child? My hunch is that it was likely never. We always wanted to be older, to have more freedom, to be seen as more responsible.

When we became adults and took governance over our own lives, the same desires returned. This time, we were looking forward to our next vacation scheduled months away. We were planning for our future house, car, career, partner, etc. We were dedicated to spending all this time reaching for what was yet to come, which is only natural. It’s what we were encouraged to do our whole lives.

Now, I’m not trying to say that planning for the future is bad or that self-growth is frowned upon. Never would I suggest such a thing. But how often do I encourage myself to take a deliberate pause and bask in the joys of the present?

If we look at Psalm 118:24 NIV, this passage directly asks us to enjoy the present:

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

While it was written to specifically call out the Sabbath, the guidance of Psalm 118 can extend into every day of the week. Each day is a gift from God and we as Christians are called to use it wisely to do His good work. If we are too focused on our upcoming deadlines, are we truly enjoying the work that we are doing? The same work that God has called us to do? How are we to glorify God if we do not rejoice in the way we spend our days? Of course, this is just one example, but you get the idea.

But there is more to being present than just celebrating the day or enjoying a moment.

In James 4:14 NIV, we are reminded why it is so important to take those deliberate pauses in our life:

“You do not even know what will happen tomorrow…You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

Like the mist mentioned in James, moments in our lives are not eternal. James 4:14 serves as a reminder of the fate that awaits all of us: death. In truth, we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. It’s never guaranteed. So while we can prepare for what lies ahead as much as possible, there will never be a more perfect moment to enjoy the gifts that God has granted you right now, in the present.

If we continue to live in the future, we run the risk of truly living. When we take a moment and root ourselves in the present, we are able to see through life’s lens with clarity and awareness – a state that helps us find contentment and understanding in ourselves and others.

Wherever you are, commit to being here, completely, and keep your eyes on God. He will take care of the rest.

Faith in Action

Salvation Army officer smilingThe best place to start practicing being present is in your daily routine. Whatever you’re doing in life, whether it’s preparing for your day or meeting with a friend, you can choose to let your mind roam elsewhere, or you can bring that awareness to the present moment. If given the chance, choose to delight in the moment.

Learn more about how to start a relationship with God. Salvation Army officers are ordained pastors who can help you work through any season in life – spiritual or emotional. They offer advice based on God’s word and can pray with you.