I live in the present, the now. So do you. So does everyone. Yet, some of us live under rules imposed by our past, living in a bondage to people and events long gone. Nevertheless, we live in the present. Others live focused on the future, caring little for the problems of now and thinking only of what lies ahead. Nevertheless, they, too, are in the present.
We are creatures of the present. We may carry our past, like a heavy weight chained to our back, or we may be oblivious to the world around us now in our fixation on the future, the world of our hopes and dreams "then." But either way, like it or not, we cannot escape the "now." And the present makes certain demands on us, like it or not.
So how are we to understand the present? What is the purpose and meaning of our pain, our unfulfilled longings?
First, I can attest that life is not about "having it my way," satisfying my whims and desires. I spent many years "following my dreams," seeking to have life on my terms and running my way. And all I gained by it can be summed up in two words: pain and loss. An abundance of pain and loss came to characterize both my life and the lives of others who got too close to the demolition zone, as I worked to wreck my life.
As a consequence, my life has been circumscribed, with important doors firmly closed to my knocking, mostly by my own foolishness.
The situation is and would forever be depressing, intolerable, and hopeless, except...
God is the change-maker in our hopelessness. God is the redeemer of lost lives. God is the lover of men and women with empty lives and no hope. With God, everything changes. With God, there is no such thing as a meaningless life.
So what does all that mean? How is my life different...today?
I still have problems, and I still hurt. And I'm not certain it will ever change while I live on this earth. And yet, while it's painful and still discouraging, I have hope. And that makes all the difference.
I have hope because now God runs things. I no longer seek to fulfill my desires and "make it happen," to build the life I think would be good.
My task now is to come as close to the Father as possible - and to stay there. It is not my task to run my life, though I may indeed be the one behind the wheel. God sets the priorities, determines the destinations, and then trusts me to work with him to bring to pass his purposes in my life and the world around me.
So, is life easy now, problem-free? Not by any definition. Some days - months - it's still a huge struggle. But here's the difference: Now, it's not my will that's primary, but his. Now, I live to know him, to love him, and to serve him.
And what happens today, while important and a part of the growing kingdom of God, is also training and preparation for what lies ahead. And that will be marvelous, indeed!