Past, present or present perfect

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

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!



As I was earning my degree in English and had to complete the prequisite grammar courses, the thing that stood out to me was the present continuous verb and God's declaration that "I am" It is a being verb which expresses 'now'.

Over the years, I have thought a lot about how my focus on past pain has robbed me of healing because grace does not exist in the past (My grace IS sufficient for you). I've thought of the times where my focus on the future filled my heart with uncertainty and fear. I can't borrow grace and God's comfort for trials that have not yet taken place.

It is only when I live in the 'now' that I can have a meaningful dialogue with God about what lays heavy on my heart. Although I can trace the times where I can now see that God was always with me, learning to share this life with Him as I'm living it has brought me the most joy.

Thank you for sharing God's gift of insight with the rest of us. :-)

Hi Norah,

Fascinating comment. From a technical perspective, I would encourage you to use caution imposing English structure on Hebrew (or any other language). The Exodus passage ("I am") is among the most difficult in the Torah to understand and translate. It means -- according to common translations -- "I am," but a great many scholars don't buy that. Hebrew doesn't have tenses like English, and doesn't treat time the same way.

So, there are a couple ways to look at it that come to mind. First, for God to say "I am," doesn't mean he is only here for us in our present, since that's a time-bound thing, and he is not in or bound by time. So God can say "I am" at any point in our "past," and be there -- now. And he can say it in our present. And he can also say it in our future, sine it isn't future to him. So, when there is pain and trauma in our past, God can be there -- now -- and be a healing factor in that event. And I have seen people dramatically healed as God took them back through their memories, and they "relived" an event, but with Jesus there with them.

Another aspect: The understanding of the passage that I like the best says, "As who I am I will be with you, at work in your present circumstance as who I am." The explanation of how this is derived is too long for here. Check out a small book called "The Problem of God." Good reading. But the end is that God is present with us in our situations, as the God of the universe who is all powerful, and who is utterly committed to us as his covenant people.

So, I guess perhaps I should write a blog entry on this, since it's a little more than a comment can handle. But this short part might stir up some thought.

Hi Larry,

I had no idea that Hebrew does not have any tenses. When I think of continuous present, for some reason I think of being outside of time because past, present, and future for Him is now.

I hope I didn't appear to say that God wasn't with us in our past. In fact, I take great comfort realizing that when I felt most helpless He was with me. When I spoke of God's grace not existing in the past, I meant that if I spend most of my time dwelling on the past, I forfeit what God has for me now. I can experience healing by allowing God to walk with me through my past, but I think dwelling is something different.

Throughout all of the issues I have dealt with over the years, I either used the past or the future to run away from the pain.

It's hard to put into words what I'm trying to say - especially on a topic of such weight. Tha

I hope you do blog on this topic.


Indeed there is no past or present or future with God. God exist outside
time; therefore He sees your past,present and your future at the same
time. When He says "I am" He means He is everything and anything to you.
And in the context of Exodus, to the Hebrews at that time God was
bringing deliverance to them, so he was also saying I know the pain and
suffering you are experiencing now but I am Here to deliver you. Lastly
God was also bringing hope to them for their future,remind them of the
promise land that was ahead of them, so the word 'I am' is filled with hope
for the future also. Therefore I AM is the name of God.

Leave a comment

Loading tweets:

Follow us on Twitter!

  • Xhanti Mlamleli said:
      Indeed there is no past or present or future with God. God exist outsi...
  • Norah L. said:
      Hi Larry, I had no idea that Hebrew does not have any tenses. When I...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Hi Norah, Fascinating comment. From a technical perspective, I would ...
  • NorahL said:
      Larry, As I was earning my degree in English and had to complete the ...

home quodlibet journal theo blog sermons theology e-texts church history forum home