The Gift of the Present

Posted: July 16, 2011 by clairer in Contentment, Joy

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:12

I’m a planner. I like thinking about my future: things that I want to do in my next semester at college, where I will be a year from now, and what my long-term future will hold. I like having my life scheduled out. My daily planner is full of multi-colored notes on what I’ll do each day and I enjoy making, remaking, and rearranging spreadsheets with my possible course sequence for my next few years of college.

But is there a problem with this? Isn’t planning ahead a good thing? Well, yes and no. The problem surfaces when I spend so much time contemplating the future and planning my life that I forget to throw myself whole-heartedly into the present — when I forget to treasure the conversations I’m having, the activities I’m participating in, or the time I’m spending with family and friends now in anticipation of things coming up in the months and years ahead. It’s an issue of contentment.

God has given us the circumstances, challenges, joys, and trials of each and every day of our lives. He has put these circumstances in our lives to help us to grow. Romans 5:3-5 says, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Our challenges in life produce endurance, character, and hope. Our challenges should not be wished away or overlooked in anticipation of the future, but should be embraced as ways for us to learn and grow.

If we spend time and attention planning and contemplating our futures, we are distracted from the present circumstances God has placed around us. If we are distracted from those circumstances, we will not be investing as thoroughly in the friends surrounding us, or embracing the opportunities available to us, or discerning lessons we should be learning.

Not only will we be missing opportunities currently available in our lives by constantly planning ahead, but we will also be investing in something we have no guarantee of. Whether or not we want to think about it, we have no guarantee of tomorrow. The only thing we can be sure to experience is the present. Jesus warns about this in a parable:

The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him,’Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be? (Luke 12:16-20)

While I have much to learn about walking this out in my own life, I’m seeing that it is important to invest in what I have right now: the present. There is much value in planning and preparing for the future, but I shouldn’t forget to be content with (and enjoy!) where God has placed me currently.

  1. KathyR says:

    Yes — for type-A personalities (“ahem”….like myself), it’s a good reminder for me that God is often more interested in the process than the product. I so often want to shortcut the present and leap ahead to the future. Sometimes I just need to “be still and know that He is God” — and look for how He’s using the present to mold and shape me for the future. Thanks, my dear 🙂

  2. JoRo says:

    Thanks for the encouragement to look ahead, but while enjoying the gift of now!

    Frederick Buechner — “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

  3. nbarden says:

    This sounds familiar…didn’t a friend of yours tell you something like this once a while ago? 😉

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