“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34 ESV).
How would you like to spend much of your day cutting weeds, branches, and vines for your goats and cows to eat, then carrying that fodder uphill for a mile or more? What about doing that every day, week in and week out, throughout your life? Or what about beginning each morning with a half-mile hike down the side of the mountain to the nearest spring, then back up to your house with a 5-gallon bucket of water? And repeating that perhaps two or three times during the day? After those daily chores, of course, there is the real work of cooking meals, washing clothes, sewing, and other necessary housework (for the ladies) and plowing the fields or working as day labor (for the men) which occupies most of the daylight hours. Such is life for billions in undeveloped countries of Asia, Africa, and South America.
When we in the U.S. think of such things we are grateful for our modern homes, a dependable infrastructure in our communities, and the less physical work by which we earn our living. Yet the truth is that we have our regular chores also. As Jesus says, every day comes with a certain amount of “trouble” (i.e., necessary and inevitable situations which demand our attention and energy). No one is exempt from daily cares.
Even Paul spoke of “the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28). Any preacher or elder (and many other Christians) can empathize with the apostle in such concerns.
We have a tendency to equate our happiness and pleasure with leisure time and with activities that are outside the boundaries of work or duty. We endure the daily grind in order to enjoy our weekends and holidays. Work is necessary, whether it is our occupation or our home chores, but it is not where we find fulfillment or satisfaction, much less fun or pleasure. We commit to thirty years of employment, planning a long pleasant retirement at the end which will make it all worthwhile.
The truth is, however, that all of life involves duty and responsibility. The idle are a small minority and are rarely fulfilled or even much respected. Life is about doing what one must, whenever it must be done. Successful and happy people have learned to enjoy and find satisfaction in those things which ought to be done.
Yes, Paul felt pressured by his anxiety for others, but he also gave that same anxiety as his primary motive for continued life. “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith” (Philippians 1:23-25). He may have been stressed, but he was committed to his work and found ultimate fulfillment in doing his duty.
One of my favorite sermons is a classic from Batsell Barrett Baxter, “Making our duties our desires.” He identified a true key to living a successful Christian life. It is simply that one must learn to want to do what one ought to do. When work is enjoyed, it is still work but it is no longer energy draining labor. That is true of our service to God, just as it is of our employment.
Let us accept Jesus’ challenge and quit dreading tomorrow. We can deal with its demands as they arise, knowing that “all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28).