The Enemy’s goal is to get you to focus on the Past and the Future.
Think about that for a moment. Where has your mind been today? This morning? Last night? What has consumed your thinking and your energy? Are you focused on the Present and the Eternal? Or the Past and the Future?
Consider this fascinating passage from the C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters:
(*If you’re not familiar with this book, it is a series of instructional letters from a senior demon to his trainee about how to best distract a new Christian and so destroy his usefulness to the Kingdom of God.)
“He [God] would therefore have them continually concerned either with Eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present – either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.
Our business [the demons] is to get them away from the Eternal and the Present. With this in view, sometimes we tempt a human to live in the Past. But this is of limited value… It is far better to make them live in the Future… The Future inflames hope and fear. Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it, we make them think of unrealities… Nearly all the vices are rooted in the Future… Fear, avarice [greed], lust, and ambition look ahead… We want a man hagridden [worried or tormented] by the Future – ready to break the Enemy’s [God’s] commands in the Present if by doing so we make him think he can obtain heaven… We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now…”
I find that when we look to the Past – if it was negative and full of our mistakes or the mistakes of others that have affected us – then we feel trapped. We are bitter or angry or feel victimized or feel stupid and incapable. We feel hopeless and frustrated. The Past can be an ugly place.
However, if your Past was beautiful, and amazing and full of joy – and your Present is none of those things – then you are tempted to be discontent, discouraged, and frustrated. Nathalie Grant wrote a song called “Painting Pictures of Egypt” describing how sometimes we look to the Past and long for all that was good, forgetting what was troublesome, and we are unable to move in the Present.
We are often tempted to live in the Future instead. The Future is so full of unknowns. Sometimes we have great hope for the Future, but perhaps that hope is sowing seeds of discontent in our souls. Mostly we have fear of the Future. We spend so much time worrying about “what if”. The Future is unknown and – quite honestly – out of our control. Control is but an illusion.
God’s desire is that we focus on the Present… and on that which is Eternal.
Let the Past go. Refuse to dwell in the Future. Embrace today. That’s my goal for today.
“The Present is the point at which time touches Eternity.”
*Screwtape Letters, chapter XV.