Back to the Future

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We were reading our family devotional one evening during dinner, and the passage that night was Romans 8:38-39. The message was for the boys; it’s the cool, boys’ devotional book I picked out for them a few months ago, after all, and more often than not, the night’s topic fits perfectly with a situation our family is facing.

That night, the lesson was on perseverance. It was the very night one of the boys was contemplating throwing in the towel on something. But that wasn’t the only important connection.

As I read the Romans passage out loud, my voice nearly broke up as I read all the things that can’t separate us from the love of God: “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future . . .”

The future.

The future is my own personal battleground, something I’ve often wanted to throw in the towel on. For the last five and a half years since my initial cancer diagnosis, I have struggled with the future. Before cancer, the future was mine; I was in charge of what would happen to me. Life wasn’t perfect, and there were uncertainties, but in general, I didn’t worry about the future. I knew it would come.

After cancer, suddenly the future felt uncertain. Not just the “what” of the future, but the “if.” Would I even have a future? And if I did, would it be painful?

There have been weeks at a time where I had to live as though I had no future, painstakingly living one day at a time, no plans beyond now, no commitments I would have to break if the future brought the uncertainty I feared.

Now, after finishing treatment for my fourth occurrence of the cancer I hate so much, once again, I am faced with the daunting future, this time, with a husband and stepsons to consider. It’s easy for me to sink back in fear, forego planning beyond the next few days, assume the worst for what’s ahead.

Or, if I try living in denial, I can pretend everything’s ok, that there’s no chance the cancer will return, and go back to believing I alone hold the future in my hand. It all might be true. No one knows.

But as I read the passage from Romans that night at dinner,  I suddenly understood that however I consider the future, it has been sapped of its power in my life. The future, that nebulous day that never comes, cannot separate me from the love of Jesus.

I wish I had understood that years ago.

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I wonder if our infinite God even thinks in terms of past, present, or future? Since He is bound by neither time nor space, I tend to expect that “I AM” has no such limitations. To him, what will be, is.

But that doesn’t mean He expects the same from me. In James 4, we are told “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.” And in Matthew 6, Jesus asks, “Who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?”

Though God experiences the fullness of time in perfect unity, we are given our days one at a time. What we have experienced in the past is gone. What we call “the future” never comes. If we concentrate too mcuh on either, we live regretfully or nostalgically, naively or fearfully.

Only when we take today at face value, can we truly walk by faith.

That’s why Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow. “Tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

::

I think that “the future” is an idol that I can no longer worship.

I long for heaven and eternity with Jesus. But that’s not the future. That’s a reality I am already experiencing, a small shadow of infinity that is no longer bound by time.

I expect at some point I will die. But that’s part of the tomorrow’s troubles, and I have no control over that.

I have hope that what Jesus has started in me He will someday complete. That’s just faith.

But “the future,” a paralyzing pool of demands and fears that leaves me discontent or terrorized? I can’t go there anymore.

I’m living for Jesus just for today. Forever.

Photo by seier+seier, used with permission under the Creative Commons License.

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Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.


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    charitysingletoncraig@gmail.com ,

    Marilyn – Yes, I think the future is very much an idol for me. For some, it’s the past. Maybe in both cases, the idolatry isn’t beautiful and alluring. For me, it’s like the hungry, capricious pagan idols that required sacrifice and tiptoeing. Who wants to serve a god like that anyway? Not me. Abandoning even these kinds of idols is never easy, though.

    • Marilyn Yocum ,

      Like Megan, the line “the future is an idol I can no longer worship” stood out, hit home. It is good to be set free from idols in every form, though the wake-up call can, at times, knock the wind out of you. Perfect ending…”just for today. Forever.”

      • Megan Willome ,

        “I think that ‘the future’ is an idol that I can no longer worship.”–Oh, yes, Charity! I get this, although for totally different reasons. The future is now very literally out of my hands. I see now that it was never in my hands in the first place. God’s word to me at the turn of the year, on a snowshoe hike was, “You are no longer in charge.” That has been more true than I could have imagined.

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          charitysingletoncraig@gmail.com ,

          Megan – I think I heard that same message, only for me. It’s weird that we can live our whole lives in denial or ignorance, but the reality hasn’t changed. We are not in control. And thankfully, neither is fate or the universe or evolution or any force outside of God’s control. That is where I have to go to find comfort.

        • Diana Trautwein ,

          This makes me teary-eyed as I sit in an unexpected hotel room in Chicago because of cancelled flights out of O’Hare. WE DON’T know the future, despite our desperate and sometimes pitiful attempts to plan for it! This is just lovely, so heartfelt and real, Charity. Thank you for it. (And I’m glad this round is DONE.)

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            charitysingletoncraig@gmail.com ,

            Diana – So sorry I am getting back here so late to comment. You know, things like cancelled flights or crazy traffic or unexpected headaches – they are the daily reminders of our lack of control. I think the Lord wants us to receive them as gifts rather than headaches. But that is so hard, isn’t it? I am so desperate to control things that it’s really, really hard for me to understand that this big, eternal lack of control also is a gift. I wonder what it would take to change my thinking?

          • Becky Emerick ,

            Oh Charity, I might need to print this out and keep in on my desk forever. So well-worded. You are not alone in your fear of the future. May I share bits of this with a MOPS group I’m speaking at this Friday, about worry and fear? Love You, Becky

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              charitysingletoncraig@gmail.com ,

              Thanks, Becky. And yes, please feel free to share. I have also found that so many people share my fear of the future, even if the fears stem from different circumstances. Let me know how the MOPS talk goes.

            • Nancy Franson ,

              Oh, Charity. I admit–I held my breath after clicking over here, afraid of what I might read.

              This is deep, important stuff–truth most of us wrestle with only on a theoretical level. But you are so right–eternity isn’t future. It’s now.

              I cling to so many lessons from my pilgrimage experience last summer, but the one I come back to almost daily is this: Each step forward is a victory; each step is a gift. Each breath I take that enables me to take each next step is a gift.

              And this–God already inhabits the future. He’s already there, so it’s got to be good.

              My, how much your life has changed since that initial diagnosis. I’m just sitting here, picturing you sitting around the table with your husband and sons. Could you have even imagined? Yet God did. Because he was already way out ahead of you on this one.

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                charitysingletoncraig@gmail.com ,

                Thank you, Nancy, for these thoughts from your pilgrimage and for being part of my pilgrimage! I often think about all that’s happened in the last 25 years, and I’m amazed!