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 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.
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.