The past hundred years have seen advancements in science, technology, medicine, warfare, and industry that would have boggled the mind of those in the past. And the pace of change is not slowing down. We are conditioned to a rapid rate of discovery, to Moore’s Law, to a craving for faster internet speeds, and the rush to a better future.
A pandemic confined us to our homes, but we are still asking, “When will schedules return to normal? When will school, work, and church resume?” And while waiting, our internet connections have sped up and the future of videoconferencing is now behind us.
In such a future-focused world, how do we find time to live in the present? And, really, why would we? Wouldn’t that just leave us behind, unprepared for what’s next?
Scripture acknowledges the benefits of planning for the future (Proverbs 21:5), but Jesus directs our future-oriented selves heavenward and encourages us not to worry so much about tomorrow (Matthew 6:19-34). God says plenty about living in the present and letting the future take care of itself (Proverbs 16:3, 9; 19:21; Matthew 6:33).
Here are five practical ways to live fully in the present moment:
Be still and know that I am God!
– Psalm 46:10
You don’t have to stop. Just pause. Watch the sunset. Take a moment to study the smile of your loved one. Enjoy the pitter patter of the rain. See if you can spot joy in a crowd, or evidence of God at work in your daily routines.
In Exodus 33:14, God tells his people, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Really? Standing in the midst of over half a million people, animals, tents, crying children, blowing sand, rocky terrain, and nothing but desert between where they were and their “future”? Yet God declares that acknowledging his presence will give his people rest in the midst of an uncertain future.
Today, lack of a vaccine or loss of income or separation from others may be causing anxiety and a rush to see the future “return to normalcy” realized. Know that you can live in the present and be at peace. “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,” (Psalm 62:5).
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
– Philippians 4:5-7
Gratitude is a great gift. You can’t be thankful for what hasn’t happened yet — that is called hope. Instead, we say “thanks” for what is and for what has been. We show appreciation to others and to God when their past and present actions are a blessing to us. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good,” (Psalm 34:8).
Do you eat slowly, savoring every bite? Or are you like your children asking, “What are we eating for dinner?” while still eating lunch? Taste and see are present-tense verbs. They are something we are commanded to do in the here and now. Experience God’s goodness and grace for “those who seek the Lord lack no good thing,” (Psalm 34:10).
God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
– John 4:24
How are you really feeling? Be honest. Get in touch with your present emotions and sing them out to God. Write them in your journal. Pray. All of these worshipful expressions connect us to the God who is present with us — Emmanuel.
God is aware of your situation. As the Israelites traveled through the desert, God promised them he would give them rest, but they spent the next 40 years wandering in the wilderness because they refused to trust in God. Living in the present doesn’t necessitate denying hard circumstances, but it does require us to pause (1 Peter 5:7), appreciate (Colossians 3:16), and worship in truth (Psalm 55:6). Only when we are honest with God can we truly learn to trust him in the present.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.
– Galatians 6:2
You can’t control the future. You may try, setting aside money for an inheritance for example, but there is only so much you can do.
One way to reconnect with the here and now is to serve someone who needs you today. Meet a need that is evident and within your circle of influence. There are numerous examples from Scripture reminding us of the value of serving others. For instance, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God,” (Hebrews 13:16). Or, 1 John 3:18 which says, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
While you are serving someone, it is difficult if not impossible to be preoccupied with your own future. There is a satisfaction that resonates in the present moment of giving away some of the abundance we have in Christ.
In humility, value others above yourselves.
– Philippians 2:3
Who have you neglected to connect with because of your “to do” list? What is still “yet to be done” on your calendar?
Lists are great at organizing our future time and helping us set priorities, but sometimes relationships suffer as a result of a task-oriented day.
Want to live in the present? Spend a few minutes more than you had planned on the phone with a distant relative. Text back and forth with an old friend. Meet someone for coffee or lunch. A true “future-oriented” person never regrets time spent with friends and loved ones because those opportunities are so precious and fleeting.
Like riding on a bullet train, we are fast approaching the future. Know that for a moment, the scene inside that train can seem still, even serene. You can pause, be thankful, worship truthfully, serve someone riding with you, and connect with a fellow traveler before returning your gaze to the blur outside the window.