Don’t Miss the Best ‘Gift’ of All: How to finally, for real, live in the present

The Christmas tree of the Christmas Market is reflected in two windows in downtown Frankfurt, Germany, Friday, Dec. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

The Christmas tree of the Christmas Market is reflected in two windows in downtown Frankfurt, Germany, Friday, Dec. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)  (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Recently I read this line, as quoted by Archbishop Fulton Sheen: “We crucify ourselves between two thieves: the regret of yesterday and the fear of tomorrow.”

When we look back with regret or look forward with fear, we are totally missing the present.

How often I am robbed by one of these two thieves — all of those “could haves” and “should haves?” It is a very easy trap to fall into. How do I get out of the “tar pit” of the past or the unknown “fear fog” of the future? 

To work through this with God’s grace, I have found it helpful to ask myself a few questions. 

About the Past, Ask Yourself:

1. Why am I feeling this way? Is it a legitimate, specific feeling, or an overall “I can’t quite put my finger on it” feeling? God is very specific. He wants us to deal with issues and move on. The enemy works in “vagues.”

2. Am I feeling guilty about something? If so, have I dealt with it, repented for it and confessed it? If not, I need to go to confession and possibly do some reparation if I have wronged someone. 

If I have repented and confessed and done what I can to make peace but I’m still feeling badly, then I can suspect that it is not a conviction from God but a sense of “false guilt” from the enemy to take my eyes from God and put them onto myself. 

The enemy loves to rob us of all things good in life, including the beauty of the present moment. The Giver of Life loves to send us “nudges” called “conviction.” With that strength, we can know and sense right from wrong. When we have sinned, God gives us a nudge to confess so that we can be restored into union with him.

God is not in the business of making us feel badly to make us feel badly. He always — and only — has our best interest at heart. So if I am feeling “guilty” and I have already gone to confession, I need to start telling the enemy to be quiet.

Then I need to turn my attention to Jesus and fill my mind with truth instead of the lies that the enemy is whispering to me.

The best news about our sinfulness is that God can use even our FAILURES for his good purposes. 

It is true. He causes all things to work together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purposes, according to Romans 8:28. 

God is in the business of redemption. So do not let the enemy tell you that you or anything you have done is beyond God’s long-arm embrace of grace. No matter what you have done, his grace, mercy and love, are greater still.

Here is scriptural truth to feed upon: 

If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. (1 John 1:9)
As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us. (Psalm 103:12)
Hence, now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
Therefore, if the Son has set you free, then you will truly be free. (John 8:36)

About the Future, Ask Yourself:

1. What am I worried about? I read once that 80 percent of what we worry about never takes place. I’m unsure if it is true, but I really like the sound of it. 

2. Is it a legitimate worry? My friend often says, “If you know how to worry, then you know how to pray!”  

Start praying and see what God does with the situation.

3. Is this a problem I have had to face before? If so, how did God bring me through it? If he has brought me safely thus far, he will continue to uphold me. 

4. Are there steps I can take now to help get me to where I need to be to better handle the situation? If so, I’ll start now and stop fretting.

5. I must remember: The future is a seamless transition from the present. God has it all under control. There are NO surprises to God, because he is already there waiting for me.

6. Grace happens. As my friend Betsey says, “Grace always comes in the moment.” You cannot picture how or where or from whom, but grace will be there when you most need it. Have faith in God. 

Scriptural truths to feed upon: 

I know the plans I have for You, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Be strong and steadfast; have no fear or dread of them, for it is the LORD, your God, who marches with you; he will never fail you or forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,on your own intelligence do not rely; In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and laughs at the days to come. (Proverbs 31:25)

So how do I remain in this present, this gift from God, this “right now?” I remind myself always that I am living in the presence of God. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and he will never let me down. I need not dread the past nor fear the future.

Each and every breath I take is because he wills it, so enjoy it and breathe very deeply.

Melissa Overmyer is founder of  Something Greater Ministries in Washington, D.C., and has taught the Bible for more than 30 years.

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