We imagine many scenarios. We worry about many things that will never happen. I like the definition of worry I recently came across:
Worry is interest paid on a debt we may never owe.
That’s a definition worth remembering because it exposes the stupidity of worry.
Today is Monday, not Tuesday.
How much of Monday have you spent imagining? I don’t mean the good use of imagination: wondering, dreaming, thinking up new possibilities. I mean the negative use of your imagination: mentally rehearsing difficult or stressful circumstances from your make-believe future. Have you been wasting Monday by mentally “trying on” what it might be like to get through your forecast for Tuesday?
We become fearful, burdened, not a lot of fun to be around, and terribly ineffective in the present when we try to live life through our imaginations. What is this dynamic about?
A few weeks ago I went for a walk with my friend Toby. I told Toby about some future fears I had for my family and my work. I laid out my scenarios and forecasts. The more I talked through my imagined forecasts, the more troubled I became. Toby noticed this and spoke a powerful sentence to me:
God doesn’t give us grace for our imaginations.
Toby reminded me of one of those fundamentals we seem to always forget.
God gives us grace for today, grace for what’s right in front of us. Today is Monday. And today God has given us the supply of grace we need for navigating Monday, December 21, 2009. But today, Monday, God hasn’t given us the grace to handle Tuesday or our imaginations of Tuesday.
Stop for a second. Where has your imagination been all day? What have you been imagining about tomorrow, next week, next year? Those imaginations have made you heavy because God doesn’t give you grace for your imagination. He doesn’t work that way. He works this way:
Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day (Exodus 16:4).
God’s grace is like manna. God gives us “a day’s portion every day.” This is why Jesus taught us to pray for our “daily” bread, not “next week’s” bread.
We need to quit being chipmunks. We don’t need to try and stuff our cheeks with today’s manna, anxiously storing up fuel for the nasty winter we imagine around the corner. God doesn’t give us grace for our imaginations, he doesn’t give us grace for our chipmunk approach to life.
But, hear the good news: today God has given you today’s portion of grace. You can quit wasting Monday with all your imagining and cheek stuffing. If you’ve trusted Christ, you have a Sovereign Father who sits on a big throne in heaven, exercising detailed oversight over both your Monday and your Tuesday so that you can devote your full attention to what he has called you to do today: Monday, December 21, 2009.
Ditch your imagining. Quit paying interest on a debt you may never owe. Quit stuffing your cheeks—it looks ridiculous.
My friend Todd tells me the same truth as my friend Toby. Recently Todd sent me this paragraph from Iain Duguid’s commentary on Daniel, commenting on Daniel 3 and Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego’s predicament in the fiery furnace:
As a child and a young person, I sometimes used to wonder and worry about what it would be like to be in their position. What would I do, if I were faced with a similar choice between denying Christ and a painful death? I doubted whether I would be so bold in service of the Lord as these young men were; I feared rather that I would cave under the pressure. As I have grown older, however, I have come to realize two things. First, God has not promised to give us the grace to face all of the desperate situations that we might imagine finding ourselves in. He has promised to sustain us only in the ones that he actually brings us into. He therefore doesn’t promise that we will imagine how we could go through the fire for his sake, but he does promise that if he leads us through the fire, he will give us sufficient grace at that time. Like Manna, grace is not something that can be stored up for later use; each day receives its own supply.