Fifty years ago this month I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. I had some idea of what was coming in the next few months. I would graduate from college that same weekend. Rita and I would be married the following month and then almost immediately we would leave for my first posting at Fort Lee, Virginia, for the Basic Officer Training Course. All of those things happened more or less as expected, but we had little idea of what the future held beyond those days.
The years since have been immersed in raising a family, serving in various ministry roles, making and losing friends, living with both faith and uncertainty, experiencing tragedy, and celebrating loving relationships. Some days I feel like Abraham! God has given us three children, eight grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. This is certainly not a “great nation” by biblical proportions but a significant group of offspring from my perspective!
I am grateful for many things, but I am especially thankful that on a sunny day in May 1965 I did not know everything the future held. I could not have handled it. The burden would have been too great. Certainly that is the way that God intended for it to be.
Two passages of scripture speak to this. James, always practical and direct, writes:
“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:13-14, NIV)
James reminds us that life is a daily gift. We don’t know what tomorrow, or even this afternoon, brings. I can think of more than one time when my life could have ended suddenly, but I was given the chance for another day to live. We should not assume too much. We are not entitled to life; it is a gift.
Jesus taught about the value (and challenge) of each day as well. In Matthew’s Gospel, we read these words:
“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 6:33-34, NIV)
Jesus puts our lives into the proper perspective. He says that you should place yourself in the right relationship with God and not worry about anything else because you have no control over it anyway. You are in God’s hands. Many of the things we worry about may not come to pass and, if they do, we will deal with them when they happen. This is not an invitation to procrastination but a command to avoid excessive anxiety about the things over which we have no control—and they are many!
Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (NIV). Wisdom does not necessarily come just by living but in understanding what is happening in our lives as we live each day—celebrating blessings, learning from failures, being thankful for God’s presence each day. As a believer, God gives me grace for the day and that is sufficient. This is not fatalism but faith.