"We do not rest satisfied with the present. We anticipate the future as too slow in coming, as if in order to hasten its course; or we recall the past, to stop its too rapid flight. So imprudent are we that we wander in the times which are not ours, and do not think of the only one which belongs to us; and so idle are we that we dream of those times which are no more, and thoughtlessly overlook that which alone exists. For the present is generally painful to us. We conceal it from our sight, because it troubles us; and if it be delightful to us, we regret to see it pass away. We try to sustain it by the future, and think of arranging matters which are not in our power, for a time which we have no certainty of reaching.[Pg 50]Let each one examine his thoughts, and he will find them all occupied with the past and the future. We scarcely ever think of the present; and if we think of it, it is only to take light from it to arrange the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means; the future alone is our end. So we never live, but we hope to live; and, as we are always preparing to be happy, it is inevitable we should never be so." Blaise Pascal, PenseesWe search the past, present and future for the means by which we can be happy - and a lot of anxious thought is expended in that arduous journey.
Rightly learning from the past, preparing for the future and living in the present affords the only opportunity to for joy - more enduring than happiness.
In the present we discover the simple and profound gifts we take for granted: breath, a beating heart, sunshine, the laughter of a child, the fragrance of fresh herbs. But not only does the present afford the opportunity to increase in gratitude, it also is a gateway to reduced anxiety over the unavoidable challenges of life as a human.
Jesus, the supreme sagacious one from whom Pascal draws his wisdom, taught us not to worry about tomorrow. Today has enough troubles, he said. The lillies and sparrows do not worry about clothing and food and our heavenly Father cares for them. How much more will he care for us - his very image bearers!
How much trouble have I caused my soul over worrying about the future, forgetting the lessons of the past and missing out on the gifts of the present moment.
We humans are truly unique creatures on this planet. As God's image bearers, we are able to live outside of time, as we think about the past, present and future, yet we are embodied only in the present. We have the oft-resented or misunderstood dignity of freedom which weighs heavy upon us.
Only by union with Christ will we be able to bear this mantle with grace and responsibility, to lean into the future with determined and righteous planning, to glean absolute truths from the ancient paths and to inhabit the present moment with gratitude and peace under the gracious, watchful care of our abundant Father who loves us more than we can imagine.