A post from Lindsey Funtik, Coordinator of Volunteer Ministries, Ashland First United Methodist Church, Ashland, Ohio
My meditations this morning took me back to our wedding. It was a gorgeous, slightly rainy day in Charleston, South Carolina. We had spent months planning from afar and finally found ourselves on the bright red doorstep of a pre-Civil War church. From my vantage point, hidden away until the bridal party had walked down to the song "Concerning Hobbits" from the Lord of the Rings, I could only pick out a note or two from the music we had lined up. A rolling rendition of "At Last" by Etta James, a slow arrangement of "I'm Taking You With Me" by Relient K, and "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" in all of its classic, timeless beauty.
I was really confident in my choice of hymn. It was not my all-time favorite ("How Great Thou Art"), but it was just so appropriate. In God's faithfulness, He carried me to John and John to me. We trusted that same faithfulness to carry us forward after we had sealed our covenant with a kiss. The Lord had stuck with us and would continue to stick with us. To this day two years later, He has not failed. Great is His faithfulness.
With the verses playing on loop in my head, I got stuck on one lyric in particular:
"…strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow."
I have always loved this line as it is a reminder that we have been given all that we need to get through the day at hand and that we can look forward to tomorrow knowing that the same will be true then as well. This statement is comforting, grounding.
Just as I was dwelling on those words, however, the Lord flipped them on their head:
"…strength for tomorrow and bright hope for today…"
"What a nice sentiment!" I thought, before the conviction set in.
The Christian faith deeply grounds itself in the presence of hope. The Israelites hoped for a Messiah, we now hope for the Messiah's return. Life might be hard, but we hope in the promise that the Kingdom of God is coming in its fullness. We look ahead with expectations in our eyes and "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." (Heb. 6:19) These thoughts are not to discourage hope in the future, but to highlight the fact that we do not have hope in the future alone.
The Spirit's voice, at once glorious and unrelentingly persistent, asked:
"What about today?
Do you only want to endure the moment rather than enjoy it?
What do you hope for today?"
Friends, I did not have a ready answer. I realized I had been spending so much of my time thinking about a future where healing and unity and joy was present that I had forgotten what it was like to have expectations of God for today, right now. I do have hope for tomorrow, but I think the Lord beckons us into something palpable in the present as well. The Kingdom of God might not yet be completely consummated, but it has certainly broken through. We need not invest every, single ounce of our hope in the future. We can reserve some for today.
One pericope both encourages and haunts me:
"…seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:33-34 (NIV)
I also really like how Eugene Peterson translates verse 34 in The Message:
"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."
In this passage, Jesus is exhorting those listening to not worry about what they will eat or drink because, if God cares so carefully for such things as flowers, which are so fleeting, He will certainly take care of His human children. We are instructed not to worry about tomorrow because each day has enough on its plate. As someone who daily wrestles with anxiety, this hits me hard. If I'm being honest, the idea of simply having strength for today and reserving my hope for tomorrow makes complete sense. Now is a struggle, but it will get better, it will get better…
But when our natural inclinations are flipped on their heads, we are able to spot God all the more clearly. Sure, I want strength for today and hope for tomorrow, but I also hope for today's provisions and trust God for strength to face whatever comes with each new dawn. This passage reminds us that because the Lord has promised to take care of tomorrow (come what may), we have the freedom to seek His Kingdom and His righteousness in the present moment. As Peterson exhorts through his translation, "Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now."
If I can't find hope in the fact that God is moving today, then I think that all hope might just be lost.
So, let's ask ourselves: what am I staking my hope on today? What am I trusting God for today? What future Kingdom glory can I witness today, on this side of paradise, imperfect as the world may be?
For me, today's hopes include peace for troubled friends, seeds of kindness in hard conversations, and for celebration in the mundane.
I want strength for tomorrow and hope for today. Great is thy faithfulness.
Cross-posted from Reflections on Faith, Words, and The Holiness of Today