3 You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.
4 Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.
Isaiah 26:3 – 4 NIV
C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters is a satirical descriptive of Satan’s various ploys to destroy mankind and “win” hearts over to his side, so that he can somehow thwart God’s ultimate plan. The book is a series of letters, written by Screwtape (a senior demon) to Wormwood (his junior), describing all of the subtleties that Satan has for trapping mankind. Nowhere is this more evident than in Satan’s use of anxiety about the future. Of God, Screwtape writes “He (God) does not want men to give the future their hearts, to place their treasure in it. We do… we (Satan and his crew) want a man hag-ridden by the future – haunted by visions of an imminent heaven or hell upon earth…. We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the present.”
God exists outside of time. I don’t. I live in the present and if Satan can get me completely pre-occupied with attempting to determine which future path is most likely to be the outcome of my current planning, then he has won the battle of keeping me out of the present. Satan’s most urgent desire is to distract me from communing with God. For some of us, he keeps us trapped in the past. For those of us for which the past no longer has a hold (particularly if you have been diligent in working your steps), he lays the tempting thought of controlling the future. The irony of it all is that I know that I do not have control. I am still however enthralled by the illusion of control. There is something enticing about the fantasy of manipulating future events in my mind as I think of potential future obstacles. The problem, however, is that one illusionary problem leads to another, which leads to another and soon I am immobilized by the anxiety of recognition that I actually have no control.
What sets me free from all of this? Firstly, I need to acknowledge that I have NO control. I am, in effect, powerless! That is easy enough, if I look honestly at the course of events in my life. There are ingredients to the pivotal points in our lives that were not of our making and completely unanticipated. Secondly, I need to learn to anchor my mind on the places where I KNOW God to be. Even if I don’t feel Him in the present, His word tells me that He is with me (Matthew 28:20, Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5). He also exists in eternity (Hebrews 13;8, Revelation 1:8). Because I live in the now but hope for a promised eternity I can therefore attend to the obedience, perseverance, grace and gratitude required of me by the present moment.
Is this easy? No! I (Mphatso) have struggled with anxiety, but I have grown in my ability to pull myself out of my head and enjoy the present moment, which is God’s gift to me. If anxiety is a struggle for you, talk about it. Share with others. Don’t let the enemy try to shame you into silence. God does not say we should not think about the future. But He wants us to know that because He is always with us, we do not have to worry or be anxious about the future. Instead, we can anchor ourselves on the promise of an ultimate future with Him and rest today in His perfect peace!