Key #5 to Happiness – Living in the present
“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift.
That’s why we call it the present.” ~Babatunde Olatunji
At first glance, you might ask – what does living in the present have to do with happiness? What’s so great about the present? What does it even mean to live in the present? It means that we are focused on what we are experiencing, thinking and/or feeling right now…and not caught up in the fantasies about the future or burdened down with memories of the past.
“Be here now” was a popular phrase in the hippy days which was captured well in many books and songs. Like all things, however, embracing this concept can lead a person either positively or negatively…into deep irresponsibility and narcissism, or into the discipline of total reliance upon God for every need on a moment to moment basis.
Living in the “now” with Jesus is the epitome of joy, peace, wisdom, power and destiny.
But how do you get there? Well, first, let’s explore not living in the present.
Living in the past = Regret
“When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” Alexander Graham Bell
I must admit that I too relive the past sometimes. Like most of us, when I find myself in the past, I am usually reliving a mistake or a negative situation, which then makes me feel badly about myself. Oh, I have personal ones too, but when I am stuck in the past it usually has to do with work. Have you ever had an important meeting and you blew it? I have. For days I can beat myself up over it replaying the scene over and over in my mind, wishing I could have a “do over.” Sometimes even years later, I can find myself feeling sick about a particular meeting that went south.
I can only imagine the torment people experience who have made a mistake that caused serious injury or even someone’s life. One such situation happened recently with one of my relatives.
Frankly, I don’t know how one gets over something like that, except by God’s grace.
God promises to give the Holy Spirit liberally to everyone who asks for Him.
“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more
will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13
He also said, “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” John. 14:14
What does “anything” include? Hmmnn… I guess it means ANYTHING. (which includes healing your memories and self incriminations) But there’s more –
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. 1 John 1:9 (NKJV)
“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead”, Phil 3:13 (NKJV)
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1 (NKJV)
On the other hand, if we are constantly recalling positive experiences of the past, it usually means that our happiness is caught up deeds or works we did earlier…with pride hovering around us ready to establish (or grow) a deeper root. Even reliving our own old glory days too often can hold us back from hearing the new thing God has for us now.
Here is what the Bible says about living in the past:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Cor 5:17 (NKJV)
Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4 (NKJV)
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ Phil 3:8 (NKJV)
Living in the future = Anxiety and Fear.
We all like to think about the possibility about a wonderful future where our dreams come true and that is not a bad thing. However, truth be told, when most of us think about the future, it’s usually about negative things…things we fear. Fear of losing a job, not being able to pay the bills, not being able to care for our families and more. We all face these fears, including myself. The key is not to dwell on our fears but to give them over to God…that is what he wants us to do with them. Also, check out our next keys to happiness next week where we’ll talk about how to overcome fear.
Here is what the Bible has to say about fixating on the future, worry and fear:
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:25-34 (NKJV)
“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad”. Proverbs 12:25 (NKJV)
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good.” Philippians 4:6-8 (NKJV)
“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Behold, all those who were incensed against you Shall be ashamed and disgraced; They shall be as nothing, And those who strive with you shall perish. You shall seek them and not find them…Those who contended with you. Those who war against you Shall be as nothing, As a nonexistent thing. For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, Fear not, I will help you.” Isaiah 41:10-13 (NKJV)
Living in the present
If you worry about what might be, and wonder what might have been, you will ignore what is. ~Author Unknown
We crucify ourselves between two thieves: regret for yesterday and fear of tomorrow. ~Fulton Oursler
There is a lot of truth in the above words. For a very few people, living is the present comes naturally, including our dogs. That is definitely something we can learn from our K9s…they truly live in the present. For most of us however, it takes effort to train our minds to let go of our worries and forgive ourselves of our mistake. The good news is that we can do it with help from God. He promises us (read the above verses again) to help us if we just let him. When we do that, overall we’re happier people.
Do you realize that only when we live in the present can we experience God’s presence?
Keys to happiness exercise:
- Ask God for help (ask Jesus into your life if you have not done so already)
- Read the above scriptures and others from our Successful Living area every day for a week
- Memorize the scripture that speaks to you most
- Every time fear, worry or regret creeps into your mind, pray, give it to the lord and repeat your favorite scripture.
- Ask others to pray for you