As I write this we’re waiting on test results for two precious women in our family who are having health issues. The symptoms appear serious for both. Waiting to learn what’s going on is excruciating. And all the possibilities of what could be wrong have kept me awake nights and taken my thoughts and emotions for some wild, scary rides.
In times like these, having a good imagination isn’t so good.
I have exhausted myself and projected every kind of dire situation I am almost certain is about to happen to these people I love. My stomach has been in knots. It’s been hard to eat. And in the process, I’ve robbed myself of the enjoyment of some good moments in front of me right now.
I’ve been trapped in what-ifs or what nows.
Author W. Paul Young has dealt with the fear, torment, tears, and despair that come when we project our assumptions on tomorrow. He calls it “future tripping.” When we take a future trip we create in our minds what is probably going to happen – it’s usually negative- and then we take a mental/emotional trip to that place and camp there.
God does not dwell in anything that is not real.
Paul says, “When we take these trips of imagination God is absent because God is only manifested to us through what is real. In my vain, empty imaginations, I am the only god there is. I have to fix things, make sure things turn out right, try to get a handle on people and events—and frankly, I do a very poor job of it. So, my life tended to be gripped by fear.”
I worked hard to get some ‘control’ to prevent these imaginations. I had a habit of treating something that had no reality or substance as if it were truly real.
For years now I have stayed inside the confines of the grace that is for today. Today is where God dwells with me. Today is where eternity intersects my life. If grace, in part, is what energizes me to sense God’s presence and to hear his voice, then I was obviously wasting what grace was given to me for my actual days…”
When we first heard this concept, it rang so true to the voice of Jesus saying, “Give us this day our daily bread.” And, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour of your lifespan?” “Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself.”
What a gift to our peace of mind it would be to actually live like this.
Right now our family is being invited to practice living in one day’s grace. The temptation to project fear into the future of our loved ones is huge. But, at this very moment, there are no storm clouds in the sky. They could be coming, but they’re not here now.
If there is something going on, the right time to deal with it will be when it’s actually in front of us. That’s where the grace will be to handle it.
Someone has said that when we look back at the past we experience pain and when we look forward we feel fear. It’s only when we stay awake to the present that we experience peace.
One practical way I shake off intrusive thoughts is…
to focus for a few minutes on my breathing. We can actually dislodge any negative thought by zeroing in on the rhythm of oxygen going in and out of our lungs. Our minds don’t have the ability to think about worrying and breathing at the same time. It’s a built-in anxiety buster and it works!
Try it right now. Think about something you’re bothered or worried about. Then switch to just focusing on your breath. Genius!
Reflecting on God’s promises that apply to the situation I’m in also helps strengthen me. One of my go-to scriptures is “What then shall be our response to these things? If God is for us, who (or what) can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
Whatever you have going on that might have you projecting doom into the future, come back to reality. There will be time to deal with catastrophe when it actually happens. Tomorrow can take care of itself.