This past Monday, a 16-year-old who had been within the doors of a church most weeks for the last several months, who had just recently been baptized and shared his testimony, and who seemed to everyone who loved him to be doing rather well, walked into my hometown public library with two handguns and shot four women, a man, and a 10-year-old boy. Two of the women died, the rest are in bad shape.
I didn’t know this kid, but a few of my friends knew him very well. They are all in shocked disbelief. They all knew he had struggles, but again, things had been better. He was reconnecting with his faith, he had a girlfriend who loved him, he was making positive friendships at church events… but apparently the pain inside and the outside influences overwhelmed him to the point where his mind was twisted into thinking that the only way to deal with the pain was to inflict it on others.
Cryptic YouTube videos have since been discovered that appear to have been recorded by him. In one of the videos, he describes the anger he has welled up from a life of being bullied. Last Friday, he got into a fight with what some of his classmates say was someone who bullied him, and he got suspended.
So, what went wrong? He had recently returned to church, has a girlfriend, was making friends.
But even with all this, the darkness still took over in the end, and seemingly out of nowhere.
There is a very popular adage from groups like AA and Celebrate Recovery that goes, “Live One Day at a Time.”
This is a two-fold message.
The first is that when we are trying to change a bad habit or overcome an addiction, we have to focus on today and today only. If we look at it like, “I can never touch a cigarette again for the rest of my life,” that can seem like a wall far too tall to climb. But “I can’t touch a cigarette today,” well, that’s a piece of cake.
We can’t place these large goals on our path, because then we lose sight of the here and now. If we make a goal to be "clean" for one month, and then we slip up on day 23, we are negating all of our victories up to then and judging ourselves a failure. But when our goal is simply 24 hours, we feel we’ve accomplished something every night as we put our heads on our pillows. And we have!
The second message is that we cannot live in the past or worry about the future. When we’ve finally come to admit that we have a problem with a hurt, habit, or hang-up, we start to see our pasts a lot more clearly. All the times we were wrong and all the times we wronged others. We start uncovering memories that we had buried down deep and opening wounds we never let heal properly. There is a certain part of recovery that requires this look into our pasts, but we cannot live there.
When we live in our past, we are continually condemning ourselves, reminding ourselves how lost we are, telling ourselves that we don’t deserve freedom or a better life. Or worse, that we are so bad, God has given up on us for sure. This is not true. It’s never true.
We also cannot live in the future, worrying about what is coming next. God has already promised to provide for us, told us not to worry. What good does worry do for you anyway?
“So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.” (Matthew 6:34 LB)
That’s right, “Live one day at a time” is a Biblical principle! Words of Jesus! So don’t make the mistake of believing that this message is just for those in recovery. These words are for everyone who ever struggles with living in the past, worrying about the future, or setting unrealistic goals which are almost always doomed to fail. Just focus on today. Today is all you have. Learn from the past, prepare for the future, but LIVE in the here and now. Life by the yard is hard, but life by the inch is a cinch!
Founder of BackRowOnline.com & Host of the Back Row Baptist Podcast
This past week has been a volatile one. I don’t need to rehash it. Terrible things. Terrible actions. Terrible ideas. Terrible people.
Forget Trump. Forget politics. Forget all that.
Let me be clear: I do not agree with the ideology of those who stood in Charlottesville. The racism, the Nazi nonsense, all of it is horribly appalling. I am similarly appalled by the Antifa Communism ideology. And by any side of the “Lives Matter” debates when the message turns violent. I am similarly appalled by what’s left of the Westboro Baptist Church cult. I am appalled by Scientology, by Muslim extremists, and by Kim Jong Un. I am grossly appalled by anyone who calls themselves a Christian and lets hatred and bile fly off of their tongues.
But more than all of these, the person who most appalls me is… myself. I am the chief of sinners. I am worthy of no love, honor, or respect. I am the scum of the earth.
Yet, my God loved me enough to come to this earth, take my sins upon his shoulders, and die in my place.