by Philippa Martyr
I admit, I love buying a new diary and sitting there looking at it, smelling the new pages, and cooing over it. Then I remind myself that I did this last year. Look how that turned out.
Does that stop me from doing it all again this year? No, I’m afraid not. But that’s exactly as it should be.
The inability to know the future is one of God’s greatest gifts to us as human beings. The fact that it annoys and sometimes frightens us is a hangover from the Fall.
I have friends who suffer terribly from anxiety. Some of them come from high-drama families, where the sheer adrenaline rush of fear is the preferred mode of doing anything.
Some of them have physical complications like menopause or thyroid problems, both of which can drive anxiety through the roof. Some are just natural pessimists who can only see a glass half-empty — and someone coming to take it away from them.
It’s a real cause of suffering, and they struggle to overcome it, because they know that this kind of chronic anxiety can be a sign that they don’t fully trust God. Not really; not in their heart of hearts.
I think we have all been there: we think we trust God, and we say we trust Him, but everything in our body and mind is screaming that we don’t.
Even Mother Angelica famously said of her chronic antacid habit, “My stomach doesn’t know about my great faith.”
Trust in God doesn’t just happen overnight. You can build it up using two tools: gratitude and habit.
Counting your blessings, or writing them down, or noting them each day, is the beginning of real trust in God. He is lavishly blessing you. You’re just oblivious to it.
The more you notice it, the more your lack of faith in Him — and your conviction that He’s out to get you — will shrink. You will also be more sensitive to the daily good things.
Habit is your second tool. A habit of trusting God grows out of small acts of trust, made in your heart over and over again.
When you combine these two, I guarantee that your trust in God will grow and your fear of the future will shrink. He will bless your little efforts, because He loves to see you trying to trust Him more.
We aren’t meant to know the future. We are meant to be prudent about it, to save for a rainy day, and to live within our means. The Our Father prayer reminds us to ask for our “daily” bread, not bread for the week, or the year.
Remember the manna in the desert? It fell daily. The only day God’s people were allowed to collect double the manna was for the Sabbath, so that everyone could have a break (Ex 16:4-5).
Moses told them to trust that the manna would fall every day, but some didn’t believe him and tried to hoard it. The manna promptly went off (Ex 16:19-20).
Our inability to know the future can lead good Christians into spiritual traps. One of them is prophecy addiction.
This is what I now call Christians who spend far too long on the internet believing everything they read.
All prophecy is conditional. We know that from the Scriptures. If you use the Bible Gateway website and enter “relented”, you will find nine separate occasions in the Old Testament when God apparently changes His mind about punishing people.
If God did that in the Old Testament, I’m certain that He didn’t change His mind when He sent His Son to save us, even while we were still sinners.
You may not have a future. As I am typing this, we may see the Son of Man on the clouds. (If you’re reading this, then that didn’t happen. Just don’t make any firm plans for tomorrow afternoon.)
Have you ever bought a perfect gift for someone, only to have them pester you constantly, snoop, and keep guessing to find out what it is? I have. It takes all the joy out of it.
The future is a gift from God, and He would like it to be a surprise. Let God unfold the gift of your future to you in His own way, at His own pace.
Buy those new diaries, smell the pages, and count your blessings. Entrust your future — long or short — to the Lord, because He alone knows what’s in it for you.
Originally published in The Catholic Weekly. Photo by Monstera Production.