We’ve all met people who seem to live their entire lives focused on the past. Within minutes of starting any conversation, they’re talking about some childhood trauma…their ex-spouse…their past health challenges…a loved one who has died…or a job they lost decades ago.
And then there are people like me, who tend to have the opposite problem. We continually tell you about our dreams for the future…our goals for the coming year…or the bucket list we want to accomplish before we die. This imbalanced tendency becomes even more extreme as New Year ’s Day approaches every December, when we become obsessed with putting our plans together for the coming year.
Of course, I would argue that my imbalance is better than the alternative. Isn’t it better to live in the future than to live in the past? It surely seems that way to me. I would much rather be a futurist than live my life looking in the rearview mirror.
One great thing about being a Christian is that we usually can find a Bible verse to justify our imbalances. For example, futurists like me love to quote verses like Proverbs 29:18 about people perishing if they don’t have a vision. And what about the apostle Paul’s famous statement in Philippians 3:13 that he was “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead”?
But lately several of my friends have challenged me to “enjoy the moment” and “live in the now.” They’ve pointed out that most of my days are spent thinking about what I’ll be doing in some future day. And rather than enjoy the meeting or conversation I’m in at the moment, I’m usually looking ahead toward some future meeting or conversation.
I’ve concluded that these friends have a valid point. As a result of my obsessive futurism, I often miss out on the cool things happening in the moment…in the NOW. Part of this could be blamed on my optimism, I suppose. It’s good that I’m expecting the future to be better than my past or the present. However, the problem for a futurist is that the present never actually comes—we’re always focused on a time still ahead.
What about you? Are you missing out on the blessings of the present because your mind is stuck on events in the past? Or do you suffer from the same malady as I do, allowing your thoughts of the future to rob you of the joys you could be experiencing right now?
While it’s true that the Bible recommends spending some time planning and preparing for the future (e.g., Proverbs 6:6-8), that shouldn’t cause us to overlook our need to live in the NOW:
“NOW faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
“Behold, NOW is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
“TODAY, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7).
I’m coming to see that although the past and future can have a powerful influence on our lives, neither of them should be more powerful than the NOW. That’s why it’s always better to start a new diet or exercise program today instead of tomorrow. None of us really knows what will happen tomorrow, so we better get started now if we sincerely want to change our lives in some meaningful way.
We need to help each other on this. If you catch me obsessing about the past or the future, please remind me that the only way to change anything about my life is to encounter the presence of God and the love of my friends and family today…NOW.