As you think about the future, how does it make you feel? Optimistic or pessimistic? Are you feeling anxious about the unknown–what’s going to happen to your job, finances, health, family, the nation, the world?! Who’s in control of your future?
Two things are for sure about the future–nobody knows what’s going to happen, & ultimately we’re not in control of it (Ecc. 8:7)! So-called experts make all kinds of predictions. But talking-head pundits, pollsters, & economists can’t really tell you what’s going to happen. Right now there are dire forecasts of an impending world war, financial collapse, & environmental disaster. Alarmists claim everything’s an existential crisis! But they’ve been prognosticating that my whole life! Meanwhile, such forecasters can’t tell you what’s going to happen next week, let alone 10, 20, or 50 years into the future.
That’s not to say that some very bad things couldn’t happen sometime soon or farther down the road. But we understand that with God there is no hopeless situation. When we focus on the future, we end up ignoring God in the present…which causes us stress & doubt instead of trusting God for our future. Why do some people commit suicide? They can’t look beyond the present hopeless situation to see a better future. They believe there’s no reason to go on. But if only they would have held on a little longer…
Others though imagine a future golden utopian age of tranquility when science & education solve all our problems. They say everything will be OK if we can just elect the right politicians or enact the right laws. But there’s no evidence in human nature to make us believe that either.
James reminds those who make presumptuous statements about the future that “you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:14-15). God knows the future–He’s already there.
People who plan their futures by leaving out God make serious mistakes. James isn’t denouncing the value of good planning, he’s talking about planning without taking advantage of the guidance, wisdom & will of God. If you forget to humbly consult with God, you’ve chosen to rely on chance & fate. Do you face the future with God or is your life one big roll of the dice? People who plan for their next moves without God are living like atheists. They go off on their own as if all depends on them. Do you pray before making important decisions, or only consult God’s wisdom when you think you might not be able to handle it on your own?
Did you know that Christians for hundreds of years used to sign their letters with the letters “D.V.” which stood for the Latin phrase “Deo Valente” — “Lord willing”. James says that ought to be our posture in life. It’s OK to plan, but include God in your plans & goal setting (Prov. 16:1, 9). The starting point in facing the future is to say, “God, what do you want me to do, or not to do?” Then we search Scripture & consult with other wise, mature Christians so that we can better know His will.
Life is unpredictable & fragile. James is right–we shouldn’t presume we have a tomorrow. Your life is like fog; in the morning it rolls in, but it burns off by noon. We don’t like to think about death, but it’s coming & you never know the day. That shouldn’t cause us to worry. Jesus points to a different way to deal with the future–learn to commit problems to God, & trust Him for all our needs (Matt. 6:31-34). He’s in control. Commit your future, & your whole life to Jesus Christ, & ask Him to help you trust it into His hands today (2 Cor. 6:1).
Christians really are the only ones with a balanced view–we’re a little bit pessimistic because we know we live in a fallen world that continues to need lots of fixing, & is inevitably heading toward an apocalyptic Judgment Day. But we’re optimists too because we understand that God is all-powerful & in control, & that all things will be made right one day in the Kingdom to come. We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know the One who holds the future.