When it’s clear that Joe is dying, Mike visits him every day. One day Mike says, “Joe, we both loved football all our lives. Please do me one favor, when you get to Heaven, somehow you must let me know if there’s football there.” Joe says, “Mike, you’ve been my best friend for many years. If it’s at all possible, I’ll do this favor for you.” Shortly after that, Joe passes on.
At midnight a couple of nights later, Mike is awakened from a sound sleep by a blinding flash of white light and a voice calling out to him, “Mike, Mike.” “Who is it?” asks Mike sitting up suddenly. “Mike, it’s me, Joe. I’m in heaven. I have some really good news and a little bad news.” Mike says, “Tell me the good news first.”
“The good news is there’s football in heaven. Better yet, all our old friends are here. Better than that, we’re all young again. And best of all, we can play football all we want.” “That’s fantastic,” says Mike. “So what’s the bad news?”
“You’re quarterback tomorrow.”
Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” We are not told to rejoice in yesterday or tomorrow but to rejoice in today.
It’s important we know how to live life as it’s supposed to be done. Many times, we make a mess of our lives because we’re not so good at making good for one day. Our lives are composed of one day increments. Until we get these right, it’s hard to get the whole of life right.
Perhaps you’ve seen the phrase “One Day at A Time” on a bumper sticker, plaque, or refrigerator magnet. The slogan is often used by recovering alcoholics as a reminder that a person doesn’t have to stay sober forever—just for today. A month, or even a week, without alcohol may seem impossible but one day or even ten minutes without alcohol gives folks a chance at stringing together one day of sobriety, and then another, and another, and then a month, then months, then a year, and then their lives are really changing, and then good things outweigh bad things, and sobriety is no longer something only to be imagined but is reality.
It all starts with 24 hours of sobriety. It all starts with one day at a time.
All of us are best when we live one day at a time, keeping God’s strength near us, especially when we’re facing more than we believe we can handle. Don’t take on too much at any one time. God is making crooked
paths straight for you. As scripture says, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” God blessings will arrive soon enough.
In Exodus 16, Israel received the daily manna from heaven. It came each and every day but it would not last more than a day. They were told they couldn’t store it because it would rot. They had to gather the manna they needed for that day in the morning and then eat it that same day. They had to trust the Lord for their day to day provision.
It’s not an easy lesson to learn. Christ taught us the same when we are told to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Don’t get too far ahead of yourself. The blessings come in daily doses.
Many people have such a hard time with this. We’re planners and thinkers and problem-solvers, at least at night time lying awake figuring out all the ways in which something might go wrong, and planning on every contingency so you’re ready and head off the bad option at the pass and take care of all problems and keep things under control, and be happy.
But how can you be happy if what you’re doing is thinking about what might go wrong and making variously simple or complex, organizationally perfected plans to counteract certain possible negative forces or actions in yours or your loved ones’ lives, daily and/or nightly?
There’s no rest for the future obsessed.
Perhaps you will never have so many problems in your life that you won’t reach the point where you can’t do it any longer. But not everyone gets a life like that.
One person who believed she could put everything together in a box , and figure it all out, came to a hard realization. She had to live one day at a time. She said, “So during a particularly stressful year, when our son was in the fourth year of his chronic illness and we still had no answers, I could no longer hold things together. Irrational fears flooded my thoughts. In some small and secret corner of my mind, I knew they were fabrications; but with the rest of my mind, I believed them absolutely. I lived on edge, at the point of panic, convinced that in the very next moment, my fears would knock on the door and walk straight in.
The turning point came when I learned to stop listening to my fears (that sounds simple, but of course it wasn’t). I learned not to argue with my thoughts; not to chase down all the possibilities; not to try to come up with answers. I learned to say, “Yep, that’s interesting, another anxious thought. Another fear. But I choose not to listen. I choose not to engage.” I learned to
give my fears to God rather than to steel myself to face them. I had to grit my teeth and do this over many months, but the fears gradually subsided. They still nudge at me when I am under stress. But I no longer pay attention, and these days they disappear relatively quickly.
That was the first step towards living one day at a time: learning not to listen to my fears. Here was the second step:
My husband got cancer. He nearly died. He had surgery, he had chemotherapy, and we entered the years-long waiting period we’re in now. You’d think this would be a time of fear. A time of monitoring every physical sign, anticipating the cancer’s return. And yes, there are moments like that, when my husband is unwell, and I wonder if this is it. But there was a moment, after months heavy with grief, when I sat on the steps leading down from our back veranda and pleaded with God, “Take this away. I am sick of feeling so awful. Please take these feelings away and give me some relief.” He heard my prayer.
I realized that I have a choice. I can live these months and years with my husband anticipating and fearing the worst; or I can live these months and years enjoying what we have right now. There’s no great moral superiority in choosing the second option. In some ways it’s not a choice at all; it’s a psychological necessity. More than that, it’s an answer to prayer. God and circumstances have taught me to leave the future in the future and enjoy and thank him for the blessings of right now.”
As scripture says, “Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? … But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us…. Therefore, we do not lose heart.”
Jesus entered Jerusalem riding under palms waved high and on top of a colt walking over a street strewn with fronds and garments. He rode to the temple, looked inside, then left, traveling back to Bethany. He took it all in. It was a good day, as we say. Tomorrow would be another day.
There was no guarantee however tomorrow would be another good day, and in fact he knew each one would grow darker. He could have thought about what would happen later, and dwell on that. But he came to Jerusalem, saw the Temple, and left. He would take one day at a time.
Christ taught us about keeping our heart and heads where they belong—where God can bless them. He knew the blessing of the day and didn’t ask for too much.
We do well when we see what is on today’s menu from the Lord, and fill ourselves up with it, and only it.
Too many think today will continue into tomorrow. But that’s not true. As one wise person said, “Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its troubles; it empties today of its strength.”
In fact, there are two days in every week about which we should not worry. One of these days is yesterday with its mistakes and cares, faults and blunders, aches and pains. Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control. All the money in the world cannot bring back yesterday. We cannot undo a single act we performed. We cannot erase a single word we said. Yesterday is gone!
The other day we should not worry about is tomorrow. Tomorrow’s sun will rise, whether in splendor or behind a mask of clouds. Until it does, we have no stake in tomorrow. It is yet unborn. This leaves only one day, today.
If yesterday is still a problem, you can work to make it right today. So, take care of today. If the tomorrow is a day that looms dark, make today count so you are prepared for whatever may come.
Of course, living one day at a time can be looked at as risky, and being irresponsible. But that’s not what we are talking about here. We don’t dismiss tomorrow’s needs; instead we focus on what we can do right now. We are willing to do our part, and leave the rest to the Lord. Take responsibility for what’s your possibility. God takes care of the rest. The future belongs to the Lord.
It’s so easy to forget this. It’s as easy as forgetting there are only 24 hours in a day and 60 minutes in an hour. Too many folks like to push that to about 28 hours and 75 minutes, as if we can be responsible for more than this.
While we may like to think we should be able to bend time and force in more than what fits, others have come to acknowledge time’s mastery and our necessity to obey it.
Pope John XXIII was pope from 1958-1963 and was known as “The Good Pope.” He wrote ten rules for living that are called his daily decalogue. Here are some of Pope John XXIII instructions on how to live, day to day:
Only for today, I will seek to live the day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once. Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behavior; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself. Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one. Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.
Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.. Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good Providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world. Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for 12 hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.
We try to solve too many problems. We try to constrain the world to fit it to our wants. We try to get as much as we can out of something, doubting that good will be given in the future.
Let the days troubles be enough for the day. And, as Lamentations 3:22 says, we should believe and hold faith that “(God’s) compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is God’s faithfulness.”
God gives you grace for today. Daily the Lord bears us up. Trust God with the day. Begin it with thoughts of blessings and end with gratitude. In between, labor for what is right, for what is good, for what is best.
The Lord is faithful, one day at a time.
Can the church say Amen?