When I was traveling through the Middle East on my semester abroad, there was one phrase that stuck with me “Inshallah”. Translated into English it is close to “God willing  or God’s will be done”.

It was used in any conversation about the future: before or after a plan was made. For example: “I will see you next week-Inshallah. Or Inshallah I will have this project done by then.:

This phrase stood out to me because it made a obvious distinction between now and not now-between the present and the future. But it also made a boundary between what I do have control over and what I do not.

There is a similar concept found in the Bible it says:

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” ( James 4:13-15 NIV)

No matter what your view of the divine, the truth is we have a very limited understanding, perspective, and control over the future. We can schedule, plan, predict, strategize as much as we want but tomorrow is never sure-the immediate nor the distant..

To me that makes it pretty clear, we are not meant to dwell in what is yet to come. We are meant to be here and now: in the present. There is a reason for the saying by Bil Keane: “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”

Now in conversations when people talk about the future: trying to get me to guess, predict or plan, I try to say” God willing”. This is for me. So I do not take the future on. It is a much needed reminder that I do not own it and I cannot control it.

If I feel myself begin to stress out about potential future plans or expectations I need to say “God willing” out loud or at least in my mind.

Doing this, I am telling myself: “this is not up to me” I am saying: “I am surrendering the future to the One who has it in their control-and that is not me”.  I can give the next thing, the next month, the next year-to the One who holds all of history.

This isn’t an easy habit, our culture teaches to do the exact opposite. But I find it takes a burden off my heart and mind-I can breathe easier.

How about you? What helps you stay focused on the present?

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