One Day at a Time

Sometimes we are tempted to live in the future. We spend precious time contemplating and worrying about what may or may not happen in the future. We worry about money. We worry about our families. We worry about our health.

Jesus cautioned against this. “Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34). During the last section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is talking about worry. At the end, he specifically mentions worrying about the future. We should not worry about the future. We should be taking life one day at a time.

How do we do this? How do we avoid the trap of worry for the future? It is a challenge, but there are some ways in which we can escape worry for the future and take things one day at a time:

  • Focus on today. What needs to be done today? What are some tasks that you can tackle immediately? What actions can you take today that may help to decrease your anxiety? For example, someone anxious about their health can start exercising, or she can prepare a healthy meal.
  • Mind your thoughts. It is really easy to go from reasonable planning to obsessing about the future. Be mindful of your thoughts and emotions. Are you feeling anxiety? If so, you’ve probably crossed over into worry. If you find yourself worrying about the future, don’t beat yourself up. Just shift your focus back to the present.
  • Breathe. It’s amazing what a few deep breaths will do to bring you back to the moment.
  • Experience nature. A nice walk outdoors can really help to relieve stress and dissipate worry. Connecting to nature has a way of bringing us back to the present. We feel the sunshine and the breeze, we see the leaves, we hear children playing. These things ground us in the moment.
  • Give thanks. Take a look at your life present life. Find five things you are grateful for, and thank God for them. Finding the good in today will help to curb your worry about tomorrow.
  • Start smaller, if necessary. Sometimes even a day is too much. Sometimes I have to focus on just making it to lunch. If one day is too much , focus on only a portion of the day: an hour, the next five minutes, whatever will help to keep you focused on today.

 

It is so easy to get caught up in worry about tomorrow. Jesus does not want us to do that, though. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Let’s take it one day at a time.

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Indulgence

As humans, we love to indulge, don’t we? We love, love, love things that makes us feel good — that slice of cheesecake; that new pair of shoes; that extra hour of sleep. These are things that bring us pleasure. And as people, we naturally prefer things that are pleasant to us.

This is why we overeat. This is why we are not productive. And this is why we overspend. It feels good to buy that new bracelet. I know it feels good to eat that chocolate cake. And I really enjoy reading through my twitter feed.

Sometimes I try to justify my indulgences. I’ll tell myself, “I work hard. I deserve this.” Or I will say that I’m treating myself. Sometimes, I’ll realize that I don’t need those french fries and I’ll promise to do better… next time. All this results in me choosing to  give in to all of life’s indulgences.

Here’s the problem: my arguments don’t hold water. Just because I work hard doesn’t mean that I can buy whatever I want. I don’t need to treat myself every day. And if I don’t exercise self control today, the chances of me miraculously exercising self control tomorrow are slim.

The bottom line is that if we want it badly enough, we will come up with a reason to indulge— even if the reason is false.

My pastor talks about those little things that we enjoy, but really aren’t essential. He calls them “the snacks of life.” These are things that are enjoyable, but if one is not careful, they can take the place of the more substantial things in life. Just like snacking on potato chips can ruin my appetite for dinner, filling up on the snacks of life can occupy me so that I have no time or energy for the more important things.

If I spend 45 minutes on facebook, I may not have time to write. If I fill up on cookies, I won’t eat healthy foods. If I spend money on  jewelry (which I don’t need) I might not have money to buy gas (which I do need). There is nothing wrong with facebook, or cookies, or jewelry. They become a problem, however, when they take the place of more important things.

Giving in to every craving or urge can be very destructive.  It can cause financial problems. It can impact your health. And it can keep you from accomplishing what you need to accomplish. This is especially true when we pursue pleasures at the expense of priorities.

A friend once told me that a large part of adulthood is realizing that resources are finite. Time is limited. Money is limited. We must keep this in mind when making decisions. We cannot get so focused on pursuing the pleasures of life that we neglect the priorities. This will lead to destruction.

It can be hard to turn away from life’s assorted pleasures to focus on the priorities. Each day is filled with opportunities to indulge. As you go about your week, be mindful of your priorities. Watch out for the snacks of life that threaten to pull your attention away. Choose carefully what you give your time and attention to. It may not be pleasant in that moment, but I believe that focusing on the priorities will pay off in the long run.

How do you stay focused on the priorities in your life? I look forward to reading your comments.