We all carry many different burdens at different times. Some of those burdens are necessary and unavoidable. Others are not. Whenever I haul around burdens that I’m not supposed to, I rob myself of the strength I’m supposed to spend on my real responsibilities.
One of the unnecessary burdens I carry is the burden of anxiety over real responsibilities that I will need to take care of in the future. With seminary work, increasing responsibilities in ministry, five boys to raise, and a marriage to protect, there is no end to the demands on my time. There is always a list of things to do; some of those things are written down and organized, and some of them are just in my mind. Having my future responsibilities well-organized helps, but it does not really solve the problem.
What does help is to remember that almost all of my anxiety has to do with the future. I very rarely worry about the current moment. Sometimes the current moment is hard, but my worry is almost always about what is to come. It might be focused on 30 years from now, or it might be focused on 30 seconds from now. However far away the focus of my worry is, what I need to remember is that I can’t get there. I’m worrying about something that I can’t touch, and because I can’t touch it, I have no direct control over it, or responsibility for it.
Worry over what I will be responsible for in the future creates a persistent and unnecessary burden. It must be part of the burden that Jesus describes when he says “come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)
In order to cast off the burden of anxiety over the future, I need to remember two things – one thing looks back, and the other looks forward.
First, at every moment in my past, without exception, God is been faithful to provide for me. The simplest evidence for God’s faithfulness to me is the fact that I’m still here, and I’m not ruined. God has never once failed to keep me.
Second, this same God has promised to meet all of my needs in the future. Whatever pain he chooses to allow into my life, he has promised that he will not allow me to be destroyed. Given his demonstrated faithfulness to this promise at every single point in my past, I have every reason to believe it for the future.
This truth leads to real freedom, if I am disciplined to actively believe it. It takes discipline to cast all of my cares on the Lord, remembering that he cares for me (1 Pet. 5:7). But when I do this, I find the peace of mind that can’t be explained in human terms. I find a liberating and energizing sense that all will be well, because my well-being is in the hands of someone who can guarantee it.
I will have to do hard and painful things again in the future. I will face situations that make me feel hopeless in myself. This is a healthy thing. Because of God’s provision, every impossible situation that I face will leave me with one more experience of God’s ability to do what nobody else can. Like carry the future.