See original article in Desiring God here:
I have struggled to live in the present. A natural-born “thinker,” I constantly prepare for the future or analyze the past. I’ve found from experience that this has consequences. When we are constantly distracted from the present moment, we become unhealthy, unhappy, unproductive, and unable to hear God.
When we constantly live “somewhere else,” we fatigue our minds and our bodies. We tire ourselves while doing nothing, and then wonder why we have no energy for daily tasks. On top of that, being exhausted and stressed leaves us vulnerable to sicknesses, which only increases worry and reinforces the vicious cycle.
When we are not fully present, we also can easily miss out on hearing from God. We may cry out for his guidance, but if we are overthinking what is to come, our minds become clouded and our ears stopped. Being at peace today makes us open to what he wants to reveal to us today.
Jesus Focused on the Present
As Christians, we are accustomed to hearing about Jesus being our greatest teacher. We look to him for guidance for avoiding sin, embracing love, and choosing faith. But we don’t often consider the fact that Jesus is one of the best teachers for something else: living in the present.
God controls timing. He times “every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). For example, although the Pharisees despised Jesus, “no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come” (John 7:30).
It doesn’t only matter to God what things happen. It also matters to God whenthings happen. This means God only gives us one task at a time. He wants us to give our full attention to what is presently assigned us. We aren’t intended to divide our focus between today and tomorrow.
Knowing that it wouldn’t be easy for us to mentally rest in the present, Jesus tells us this: “Do not be anxious about tomorrow” (Matthew 6:34). While we may think, “Well, it’s easy for him to say that,” let’s consider his situation for a moment. Jesus was the Son of God, but he was also “fully human,” tempted with the same temptations we are (Hebrews 4:15). And humanly speaking, Jesus had a lot to worry about.
Jesus knew he was going to be put to death. To make matters worse, he knew the agonizing, horrifying nature of his death. He was aware of the upcoming physical torture, the emotional betrayal of friends, and the inconceivable separation from his Father. This terrifying “monster” of a thought would haunt any human being who knew of its presence. Jesus displayed intense fear over it a few hours before he was arrested (even to the point of sweating blood, Luke 22:44), but he responded to that event on the day — the time — it came.
Rewind three days earlier and he was riding on a donkey, smiling and rejoicing with everyone in town. And of course, days and weeks before that, he was happy and well, approaching his daily work with total devotion, peace, and efficacy.
We don’t know whether Jesus had moments of fear weeks or days before his death, but if he did, he placed it in front of God quickly and chose to embrace peace — and the present moment — instead.
The idea that Jesus could be filled with joy a few days before the crucifixion astounds me. If I were in his place, I’d be (let’s be honest) paralyzed with worry about what lay ahead.
Jesus had amazing peace.
He Is Present to Help Us Live in the Present
And Jesus offers us this peace.
Jesus says, “My peace I give to you” (John 14:27). Notice his word choice: My peace I give to you. This is not some general feeling of rest that is bestowed upon us; this is his. This is peace from the one and only Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), a deep, secure, unshakeable rest that caused Jesus to live calmly and presently, in every hour he was in. God offers us his peace.
Many of us forget that we have been given the greatest peace in existence. Some of us who do realize that may feel frustrated that we can’t seem to access it. Like many other blessings we have been given through his Spirit, we must learn to open our hearts to it. We must quiet the louder parts of ourselves and grow (albeit clumsily) into it. We must first and foremost remind ourselves of what we have been given. Meditating upon this promise of peace brings it more and more to life within us.
Jesus knew how to live each day to its fullest. He was able to make every hour count. Even when he spent time resting in God, he was fully present, causing it to refresh him as it was meant to. Let’s follow his guidance. If he could choose peace with all that lay ahead, and if his Spirit lives within us, then we are all able to do the same.