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Jesus, James, and George MacDonald on Worrying About Tomorrow

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“The five-year plan is dead,” Kate Northrup writes. “With the pandemic and other uncertainties, many individuals are questioning what this means for career, and for those who plan years into the future, it can make them feel like they’re floundering. ‘How should you think about the future?’”

Even secular society is feeling the uncertainty of tomorrow. They’re wondering what to do about it—and floundering.

How should Christ’s Body, the church, think of it?

Our mindset should be different. It operates according to different assumptions. And it all begins with Jesus, who said:

“Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt 6:34).

This is not a piece of secular wisdom. Jesus is presenting a theological claim rooted in God's loving providence. It only makes sense if you believe that God is your loving Father.

Don’t worry about tomorrow.

The world can’t receive that because it has not received Him. But you should make the Lord’s words part of the operating principles of your thinking. You’re not in charge of tomorrow any more than you are of next year, next century, or the next millennium. The future is out of your hands. More importantly, it’s in God’s hands, so concern yourself with today’s troubles.

It’s not that you should refuse to plan for the future—just make sure that God’s providence figures in whatever plans you make. James, the Lord’s half-brother, put it this way:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So it is sin to know the good and yet not do it (James 4:13-17).

In other words, make your plans for tomorrow, but don’t depend on them too much or take them too seriously. Remember that you don’t know what tomorrow will bring or what your life will be, so don’t pretend the future is something you can control. Trust the Lord with the future and leave the results to His will.

George MacDonald reminds us of our duty:

“The next hour, the next moment, is as much beyond our grasp and as much in God’s care, as that a hundred years away. Care for the next minute is just as foolish as care for the morrow, or for a day in the next thousand years—in neither can we do anything, in both God is doing everything. Those claims only of the morrow which have to be prepared today are of the duty of today: the moment which coincides with work to be done, is the moment to be minded; the next is nowhere till God has made it” (Lewis, George MacDonald, #74)

The wise plan for the future, but the foolish worry about it.

Send your questions or comments to Shawn.

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