Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life.” ~ Proverbs 4: 23
A young Christian friend of mine in her early twenties confided to me her great concern about the future.
“As a Christian, I know I shouldn’t be anxious,” she said, “and I feel so guilty that I am. But with all the horrible things going on in the world, I wonder if I’ll get to live a normal life. Will there even be a world by the time I’m ready to be married?”
My friend is not alone in her concern. Across our nation and throughout the world, people of all ages, including Christians, are doubtful and uncertain about the future. Perhaps you yourself are one of them.
If so, you too may be feeling guilty about your concern regarding the future. You know that Christ commands you not to worry about tomorrow, but you have difficulty obeying that command. What can you do?
Before we consider why we as Christians can face the future with hope, let’s look at some factors that may be playing a major role in robbing us of this very hope.
Factor #1: WORLD EVENTS. Wherever we turn, the media bombards us with reports of disaster, destruction, and death. Wars and rumors of wars so overwhelm us that we find ourselves growing increasingly fearful and cynical about what lies ahead. In an age of sophisticated communication systems, we see close up the sin and suffering of an entire world. Such instant and constant bad news, magnified to global proportions, only fuels our sense of uneasiness and dread.
Despair, not hope, dominates the news. When the media, instead of God’s Word, becomes our primary source of mental and spiritual food, we build our lives on a foundation of fear.
Factor #2: PERSONAL PROBLEMS. Not only do world events trouble us, but personal trials also sap our hope. After nearly 25 years of climbing the corporate ladder of success, Jerry, a family friend, lost his job. At age 50, with two children in college, Jerry discovered that his ladder was leaning against the wrong wall. Shattered and defeated, he struggled with bouts of severe depression. After renewing his hope in Christ, however, Jerry found another job.
Perhaps you too, like Jerry, have lost your job or are facing financial challenges. Maybe health problems or poor family relationships are eroding your hope. Whatever the case, personal problems can definitely rob you of hope for a better future.
Factor #3: YOUR THOUGHT LIFE. We become what we think about. What we think about is the direct result of what we put into our minds. If we consume a steady mental diet of worry over our personal problems, it’s no wonder that we lose confidence in the future. The Bible tells us that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7 KJV).
If you continually sow thoughts of hopelessness into your heart, you will reap a crop of despair. If, on the other hand, you sow thoughts of hope, you will eventually reap a harvest of hope. What kind of thoughts are you sowing?
Factor #4: LOSS OF FOCUS ON JESUS CHRIST. Fear and anxiety about the future result when we take our eyes off Jesus, the One Who holds the future. Consider the Apostle Peter. When he stepped out of the boat onto the water, his eyes were focused on Jesus. The instant Peter took his eyes off Jesus and put them on his surroundings, he became filled with fear and began to sink.
This is exactly what we do when we focus on what’s happening around us rather than on the Word of God. When we allow our attitude about the future to be controlled by our circumstances instead of God’s Word, we exalt our circumstances above God. Putting circumstances above God is nothing short of idolatry.
Idolatry is placing greater trust in something other than God, whether that “something” be money, self, or world events. To be anxious about the future is to place more trust in the negative situations around us than in God’s promise to take care of us.
Are you placing more trust in the world’s word or in God’s Word?
Factor #5: LACK OF SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE. Unless we feed continually on the Scriptures, we cannot develop a strong sense of hope in the future. The Bible states, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee” (Isaiah 26:3 KJV). When our minds are anchored in God, we will experience peace in the midst of every storm, knowing that God’s plans for us are “for good and not for evil, to give [us] a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 TLB).
Are you practicing the spiritual disciplines of worship, prayer, Bible study, and fasting on a regular basis?
Factor #6: YOUR COMFORT ZONE. Strange as it may seem, many of us Christians actually want to hold on to our fear about the future. Like a security blanket, it has become so much a part of our daily lives that we think we can’t function without it. After all, how can we call ourselves responsible if we don’t worry about the future?
There is a big difference between worrying about the future and being responsible in preparing for it. To worry about the future is to focus on our own strength as we face the future. To be responsible in preparing for the future is to rely on God’s strength.
A classic example of this dichotomy is the biblical account of the two sisters, Mary and Martha (Luke 10: 38-42 KJV). Martha was the worrier, the burden-bearer, the one who put the cares of this world above the care of her soul. Jesus said of her that she was “troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41 KJV).
Mary, on the other hand, had different priorities. She realized that the most important thing she could do was to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him. Mary knew that if she filled her heart with God’s Word, she could make it through anything. Unlike Martha who relied on her own strength to face the challenges of life, Mary depended on God’s strength. Jesus said of Mary that she “hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42 KJV).
Are you focused on worrying about the future or preparing for it?
NEXT TIME, we’ll consider some reasons that we as Christians can be not only hopeful as we face the future but joyful as well.
Now, it’s YOUR turn: What do you do to hold on to hope in the midst of the storm?
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Matters of the Heart is a weekly blog that deals with the deepest issues of the human heart, the issues we all face but sometimes don’t want to talk about. The heart is the programming center of our lives. What is programmed into our heart will affect every area of our lives. Learn how to discover what is in your heart and how to program your heart for success.
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