Anticipation and Reality

It was in a conversation with my boss one afternoon that I aired a measure of uneasiness over a difficult discussion I would be initiating with a colleague within the next few days to come. He listened with patience and then offered the perspective of one not as closely attached to the matter. “The dread of anticipation is worse than the pain of reality,” he quipped. I sat in silence for a moment, a half-grin registering my appreciation of the insight of his adage, its suitability to the situation, and a pithy turn of a phrase.

There are much weightier matters in life than a business meeting, of course, and it is true reality can arrive with a harshness exceeding our expectations. Haven’t we found, though, that tomorrow almost never transpires exactly as we think or fear it may? Then isn’t it also the case we have wasted irretrievable real-time worrying about an imagined tomorrow that never materialized? Can we even begin to assess the amount of empty tonnage we’ve needlessly heaped upon the legitimate burdens of our days? It is a data point I prefer not to know.

When it comes to worrying about tomorrow, Jesus offers this advice in the form of a command: Don’t. “Do not worry about tomorrow,” he said, “for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”1 We welcome divine wisdom from Him in whom “all the fulness of Deity lives in bodily form.”2 Still, calendar pages march toward us as they always have, relentless and single-file to a drumbeat of unchanging tempo. Tomorrows become todays, each in its own scheduled time; we cannot hasten them and live them prematurely, nor can we delay them or wish any away. How, then, do we approach tomorrow without adding to the troubles of today?

We can pray, plan and prepare, of course, seeking wisdom from our generous God, for He gladly gives it to those who ask.3 So, too, we let God’s works in the past—whether protecting us against, delivering us from, or sustaining us through the pain of reality—strengthen us for tomorrow; as said the psalmist, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.”4 But I think the most crucial thing for us as we face the future is to trust the character of Him who owns tomorrow and knows it as thoroughly as any day already transpired. We have no need to doubt Him and empower such doubt with worry, for “The Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”5 This is who He is; this is who He always will be. We rest in Him.

Father, in all things you work for the good of those who love you and have been called according to your purpose. This includes all my tomorrows. Thank you. I leave them in your hands. Lead me in peace, joy and purpose today. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

1 Matthew 6:34
2 Colossians 2:9
3 James 1:5
4 Psalm 77:11
5 Psalm 100:5

Others

Messiah! The people were waiting for Him, the prophets searching intently, for all had staked their hopes on this Anointed One who was to come. He would be their Savior, their deliverer, their “God with us.” Yet somehow, those who sought Him missed Him. He came, just as He promised, but they did not recognize Him, this One sent from God. How does this happen? How could this possibly be?

Perhaps it was because when Jesus entered the world of His creating that first Christmas night—humbly stepping into human flesh for a specific time and a specific purpose—He focused on what really was important: others. Think about it, if the Christ1 had come in majestic splendor, could He have lived and taught among the people, caring for them with acts of compassion and opening Himself up to them with words of truth and love? Were He to dress in royal robes and adorn Himself in silver and gold, could He have shown us to how to give ourselves in humility for others? Had Jesus seated Himself aloft on golden thrones, how far would He have to had to have stooped to wash the soiled feet of others? And had He lived aloof from others, could He have bidden them, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”?2

The apostle Paul tells us that Jesus, though being in very nature God, “did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”3 You see, Jesus showed His genuine heart for us by becoming just like us—not merely in human form with flesh and blood, but by being like us, truly like us. Born with no fanfare. The son of a laborer. A servant. Not as one who tells others what to do, but as one who models what to do. Nothing phony, nothing fake; just real, the kind of person who earns our trust.

In fact, Jesus is the One we can trust. He’s shown it. He’s lived it. And two thousand years later, He is still calling us to Himself—to be forgiven and live forgiven, to entrust our broken life to Him in whom we have eternal life, and to take this love of God and share it with others.

This Christmas Day and every day, may we say “yes” with grateful lives, so all may see this Savior, this deliverer, this “God with us.”

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Christ in me is salvation.

1 “Christ” is the Greek word for the Hebrew word, “Messiah,” and the English term, “Anointed One.”
2 Matthew 11:28
3 Philippians 2:6-8

Our Daily Balance

“Oh, how I love your law! I mediate on it all day long.” (Psalm 119:97)

A testimony. Throughout the course of my career, fifty to sixty-hour weeks in the office were common, and there was no shortage of seasons when seventy, eighty or more hours were necessary to accomplish all that lay before me. As a rule, I did not begrudge these times, for work was enjoyable, proving Solomon’s words true: “That each of them may … find satisfaction in their toil—this is the gift of God.”1 All of my remaining time was zealously guarded and joyfully given to my wife and son.

It was Christmastime one year when I decided to begin keeping a Bible journal: Every morning, I would read a Scripture passage and then write down whatever thoughts came to mind, whatever inspirations stirred my soul and any words of prayer returned in response. So incredibly rich was this time that fifteen morning minutes with God morphed into thirty, forty-five, sixty and sometimes more. I was overjoyed by all I was learning, and amazed to find this—though my workdays shortened in proportion to these moments of meditation, they also became more productive. Moreover, a broadening perspective, a deepening trust and an uplifting calm enriched my vocational experience, all the result of newfound balance and the power of God’s word.

How appropriate that Israel’s king of renowned wisdom, while extolling work-satisfaction as a gift from God, would also caution us against the extremes of toil. “It is in vain,” wrote Solomon, “that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”2 Both enjoying what we do and resting from it are gifts from God. To open one divine present and not the other leaves us incomplete, dissatisfied and exhausted. We were designed to create through discovery, construction and collaboration, yet we were also called to rest from our labor in the presence of God and to proactively love the precious people who journey this life with us. Such is the nature of the eternal God of creation whose image we bear—the God who rests, the One who loves us with an everlasting love.

Stepping by faith into work-life balance, we lose nothing and gain everything.

Father, your wisdom is beyond my understanding and your love knows no boundaries. Draw me into your presence—through prayer and your word—for there you provide strength and there I find rest. Amen.

Christ in me is peace.

1 Ecclesiastes 3:13
2 Psalm 127:2 (ESV)