“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” Psalm 46: 1, 2 NIV
I recently read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis because I assigned it as English homework to my tenth grade home schooled daughter, Rachel. Radiant beams of sunshine shot out of the pages of letter fifteen and lit up my heart from C.S. Lewis’ meaningful words in the chapter on the temptation of worrying about the future.
Uncle Screwtape, the senior demon, warns about God’s view of time in his letter of advice to his nephew Wormwood about how to tempt his human “patient “: “He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.” (The Screwtape Letters copyright 1942 by C.S. Lewis. p. 75)
I have heard “live in the present” as a theme for years, but never really understood so profoundly “why?” The answer lies right in C.S Lewis’ pithy statement – “because the Present touches eternity”, and we desperately need eternity in our Present.
In this letter, C.S. Lewis goes on to describe what happens when we live in the Present: “He would therefore have them continually concerned with eternity…or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.” (p. 75-76)
Doesn’t this cover all of our circumstances? Eternity meets our Present and gives us the following: obedience to do what we must, strength to bear up under hardship, grace to make everything better, and gratitude for enjoying a pleasure.
No matter what is happening in my present, I go to God for His grace and help. Like Paul tells the Ephesians…. I “approach God with freedom and confidence” (Chapter 3, verse 12) and I feel His warm strong hand on my bowed head.
I saved the best quote from Screwtape’s letter fifteen for last: “In a word, the Future, is of all things, the thing least like eternity – for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.”
As Uncle Screwtape knows, living in the Future will rob us of the presence of God. Our Heavenly Father doesn’t ask us to go there – where He is not able to touch us. Planning in the present for upcoming work would be an exception, but the fear and worry associated with looking ahead are not our portion. In The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, a little Dutch girl, asks her father how she can cope with the future, especially regarding the death of those she loves so dearly:
“Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. ‘Corrie,’ he began gently,
‘when you and I go to Amsterdam when do I give you your ticket?’
‘Why, just before we get on the train.’
‘Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we are going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.’” (p. 44)
Those essential “eternal rays” make it possible for us to live in our Present in full receipt of whatever we need. God is our ever-present help! I will trust God with my future and put my face in the sunshine of his Presence today.