Christianity is concerned with the now. The now is all we have; as someone has once said, playing on the synonyms ‘gift’ and ‘present’ and on the dual use of the word ‘present’ in the English language (where it can mean both ‘gift’ and ‘the moment now’), ‘the present is God’s gift to us.’
We are urged not to worry about tomorrow but to live in the moment, rejoicing in all God does for us. Living in the past, haunted by past failures or clinging to past blessings, is not God’s plan for us. Living in the future, fearful of what might happen or dreaming contentedly of how we will shape our world, is also not helpful. The now is the only moment we truly have, a moment we are to seize joyfully and gladly. ‘Let us rejoice and be glad!’ (Ps 118:24)
But Christianity is not only concerned with the now. It acknowledges the need to remember the past (especially what God has done – see 1 Chron 16:12) and to anticipate the future with hope and joy. Christianity has a God who is eternal, who has no beginning and no end and He has made us with eternity in our hearts. (Eccl 3:11) We need to live with an awareness of eternity, not just time!
So Christians are called to live with our eyes fixed on Jesus and to take the long view.
Living in the ‘now’ only makes sense when you have the assurance of eternity. Injustice now is only bearable with the assurance of God’s righteousness at some point. Suffering now is only bearable with the assurance of God’s perfect eternal rest. Without this long-term perspective, the present can crush us and leave us in despair and hopeless.
God’s people have faced tremendous suffering in the past – slavery in Egypt, exile from the promised land, periods of darkness and silence. Hope is the medicine that keeps us going through our ‘light and momentary troubles’ to the ‘glory that far outweighs’ the suffering (2 Cor 4:17-18, Rom 8:18). Michael Card once wrote that we ‘belong to eternity, stranded in time.’ (‘Joy In The Journey’) That is a fair summary of the paradox to which we are called: to live in the now with faith and trust, but always to take the long view.
Jeremiah could face exile knowing there would be a return to the field he had just bought in faith (Jer 29-32). Amos could face exile knowing there would be a time of return. (Amos 9:13-15) Jesus could face the cross because He could look ahead to the joy of bringing salvation to all who would call on His name. (Heb 12:1-3)
If you’re struggling with your present – perhaps finding it difficult, lonely, bewildering and definitely not what you’d expected – remember to hold on in faith. Keep the long view. Don’t give up. The present may be all we have, but we belong to eternity and are still looking ahead to the eternal city promised by God. (Heb 11).