Humans have an ability no other animals have – we can project our actions into the future. We can connect today’s actions with tomorrow’s results. In fact, we are very good at this, often running complex “simulations” in our heads about projected outcomes of various actions in an effort to make good decisions. If we are not careful, we can deceive ourselves into believing that our simulations of the future are more certain than they are. We might begin to trust ourselves to produce those expected outcomes.
We see this kind of thinking warned of in James 4:13-14 (ESV), “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit,’
yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.” Two thousand years ago, James was teaching his audience what the year 2020 has made so clear to us: We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. The writer of Proverbs said the same thing, “Do not boast about tomorrow; for you do not know what a day may bring.” (Prov. 27:1 ESV)
Tomorrow is uncertain. On an international level, a national level, and a personal level, things can happen that shift the landscape in unimaginable ways. A pandemic, an economic collapse, a medical diagnosis, an automobile accident, or many other things can change life as we know it. Given this, how should our thinking change? What adjustment should we make? I would like to suggest three things.
First, be fully present in today. Throughout Scripture, we are instructed to live day-by-day. Jesus asked only for daily bread (Matt. 6:11). Paul wrote that today is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). We are instructed to help our neighbor now, not at some future time. The uncertainty of tomorrow should produce in us an urgency to fulfill what God has called us to do – to take the Gospel message to our neighbors and to the end of the earth, now. What are we waiting for? Why would we delay?
Secondly, our attitude towards the future should acknowledge the sovereignty of God in ordering our steps. “If the Lord will” (James 4:15) should become our mantra. We should shift our confidence about the future from our own abilities to God’s providence and provision. Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 6 that God feeds the birds of the field and that we are of much more value to Him than they. The Psalmist tells us that no matter where we find ourselves, God will be there, holding our hand and covering us with His presence (Ps. 139). Isaiah declared that God’s Spirit would be with His redeemed no matter what fire or flood the future brings. (Is. 43:1-2) We need not be anxious over the future; we simply need to rest in God.
Finally, we should praise God more. He has given us the gift of another day. Yesterday gave us no promise of today, and yet we are here. Though there were a thousand opportunities for this moment to have been taken away or changed into something less than what we have, it was not. God has gifted us with today, so rejoice and be glad in it. He has also given us the gift of salvation through the sacrifice of Christ. Though our earthly future is uncertain, our eternal one should not be. A heavenly abode awaits us, where there are no tears and no suffering and no uncertainty.
We will never stop analyzing the future, nor should we. But we do need to filter our projections through the lens of God’s Word. Doing so will not eliminate the uncertainty of circumstances, but it will bring into focus the ever-working hand of God in all of our tomorrows.