There are many differences among us. Our differences can make us a stronger unit, or our differences can make us question the authenticity of those who do not seem like us, causing disunity and lack of trust. We have been experiencing a lot of that in the past several years, and perhaps this year has been the worst we have experienced in decades.
It is helpful for us to find common ground, or similarities in our existence. One of those ways is in our way of thinking. We all tend to think about our past, and our future, sometimes excessively. What most of us fail to do is focus on our present. As Fulton Oursler writes, “Many of us crucify ourselves between regret for the past, and fear of the future.” This is one of the greatest causes of depression and anxiety. We think about what we could have done different in the past that may have avoided an unfortunate situation; and we think of what might happen in the future, that we need to try to avoid. The present is often omitted from our thinking because in the present, we are too busy thinking about the past, or the future. Unfortunately, an excessive amount of thought of this kind can interrupt our appreciation of the present.
Overthinking is a common word among us. I often hear people say they overthink, about the past, or the future. It seems they are really saying, they do not think enough about the present, or the good and the accomplishments in their life in the here and now. There is not enough thought of the qualities of individuals who are present in our lives because there is too much comparison to failures of the past, or fear of failure in the future.
There are seasons in our life as there are seasons of the year. Despite how we may feel, or what we may be experiencing in April, we know that spring is near, and the winter will eventually give way to the spring weather, which is welcomed by those of us who do not like the harsh cold. Some of us find it difficult to believe that progress, or positive change has been made in our lives. This is because our feelings and perhaps even circumstances are still similar to those of the past. It is difficult to stop and notice the small changes and accomplishments that have taken place, which requires a gaze into the present to acknowledge the light that is before us.
It is not wrong to look at the past. As with driving, for a short time we look into the rearview mirror and we can see a glimpse of our past to remind us of how far we have traveled. We can learn from the experiences of the past. But we must be careful, not to look back for too long, or we may miss out on present opportunities which could have a negative effect on the future. In other words, we do not want to have a crash by looking into the rearview mirror too long. Also, we do not want to look too far down the road lest we become too anxious to reach our destination and miss out on a potentially relaxing experience of the drive.
Jesus said, “..don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” Matthew 6:34. As stated earlier, anxiety is often linked to thoughts of the future. However, no matter how much we think about the future, we cannot control it. It may help to plan and prepare for a future event, but how many times do we find that our efforts never quite cover all that takes place in that future that we tried to control.
What about the present? Those who are non-traditional thinkers, like Brother Lawrence, who wrote Practicing the Presence of God, believe the here and now, the present, is most important of all. The God who will be with us tomorrow, and who was with us yesterday, is with us at this present time. What better place or time is there? He gives us what we need for the present, so we can move on to the future with more confidence, and we can rewrite our past as we look at it from His perspective. The God who created all that we love and admire, forgives us of all our sins and faults that we acknowledge to Him. When we are truly mindful of our present, we not only acknowledge the troubles or difficulties in our life, but we also acknowledge the progress we have made, the goodness in our lives, and more hope for the future. Let us maintain an attitude of gratitude right here in the present.