Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.
I like inspirational sayings, heck anything that’s inspiring is good with me. I saw something on Facebook the other day. It said:
The practice of staying present will heal you. Obsessing about how the future will turn out creates anxiety. Replaying broken scenarios from the past causes anger or sadness. Stay here, in the moment.
This is so true. Most of us do not live in the present. And when I say present, I mean this very moment. We either live in the past—yesterday, last week, or even an hour ago. Or we live in the future—next week, tomorrow, or an hour from now. We don’t live in the present.
There are several problems with this. First of all, not being present is inefficient. I’m not good at multitasking, so trying to stay present while being in either the past or the future inhibits me from doing my best work.
Second, living in the past causes us either anger, sadness or shame. We can be angry at someone because of something they’ve done in the past and it will color how we work with them in the present. We might even be angry with ourselves from something we’ve done or failed to do. Guilt and shame over the past will cast a cloud over us, causing us either sadness or anxiety with the task at hand. And we might even be sad about the past because it is over. The past might have been so good, we are struggling to be present. For example, when we go on vacation, we may enjoy ourselves so much that even when we get home, our minds and our hearts are still in the place we just left. We wish we were still there.
Third, living in the future probably causes us the most amount of anxiety. Take for instance, the long list of things we have to do that can’t possibly all get done today. Let’s say there are ten things on that list and we know we can only accomplish eight. We can sit and be anxious about the list and then we only accomplish five or six, or we can go at the list with all our might and maybe we get nine done.
Then we worry about things that are out of our control. For instance, what is ____ wins a political election in November? What if they do? That doesn’t affect me in this very moment while I’m writing this message. It might affect me in November, or it might now, but it is certainly not affecting me in any way in mid-October.
What if social security collapses and there is no money to retire on? Again, this is not happening today either. I might not live to retire. Christ may come back again before I retire. These “what if” scenarios, while we should give some thought to them, these can cripple us if we let them.
I like what Jesus said in Matthew 6:34: Therefore, do not be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. I’m not going to finish all my tasks for today. I never do. I’ll work as hard and as efficiently as I can to get as much done as I can.
One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn as a priest is to be present at a Divine Liturgy, particularly on a weekday. I have Divine Liturgy on many weekdays, not most, just many. Every day I come to the office, I have a long list of tasks to do, and I know that on a given day, I won’t finish all of them. Sometimes I don’t get to most of them. Emergencies happen all the time. Unexpected people drop in needing help. And feastdays happen. Services are celebrated. When I celebrate the Divine Liturgy, I’m in church from 8:45-11:15 a.m., at a minimum. That means none of the things on my stack of stuff will get done during those 2.5 hours. I have two choices—I can have my body in the church but my mind on the office stuff, and after 2.5 hours, I’ll have nothing but guilt and sadness to show for my time. Or I can have my body and my mind on the service, and after 2.5 hours, I will not have gotten work done, but I will be filled with joy for having prayed the service and communed with Christ.
Many times, when I have that uneasy feeling, I comfort myself by trying to stay present. I focus on giving my best to a particular situation, making that situation the center of my world, and not worrying about the other situations I’m not working on. While I’ve been working on this article, I’m not checking the phone, or texting, or thinking about next Sunday’s sermon or wondering what we are having for dinner tonight. There is, and will be, a time for all of that. But that time is not now. Now is writing time. If I’ve given my best today, in this moment, and something still didn’t get done, I give myself a pass. It’s when I haven’t done my best, or haven’t been efficient, this is when I get down on myself. The most important task in the world should be the one we are doing. The most important person in the world should be the one we are doing the task for or with. If we really can keep that in mind at all times, I think that sets us up for success and also helps to mitigate that uneasy feeling. When those heavy thoughts creep in and you start feeling bogged down, push them away by being present. Focus on being the best you can be in a given situation. And let the day’s/hour’s trouble be sufficient for itself. Don’t give stuff from the past or the future, space in your head to ruin your present.
Lord, it is very easy to let things pile up on my desk and in my mind. It seems that when I take something off my list, that three things get added to it. Help me to push away sadness from the past and anxiety for the future away from my mind so that I can be fully present right now in whatever it is that I am doing. Amen.
Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website!
Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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