The road that lies before us seems to stretch mile after mile across a flat, barren desert with no oasis in sight. How then are we to handle wearisome responsibilities when theres no foreseeable relief from our burdens'
Oliver de Vinck, severely disabled from birth, lay helplessly on his bed for all of his 32 years, unable to care for himself. Day after day and year after year his parents put every spoonful of food into his mouth, changed his diapers, and still maintained a happy home.
One day Olivers brother Christopher asked his father how they managed. He explained that they didnt worry about the long succession of tomorrows that might lie before them. They lived a day at a time, asking, “Can I feed Oliver today"” And the answer always was, “Yes, today I can do it.”
Jesus taught us how we can handle lifes routine: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (6:34). In faithand with prayerwe can break life and its often wearisome tasks into bite-size pieces, entrusting the unpredictable future to the grace of Him who promises that “as your days, so shall your strength be” (Dt. 33:25).
Worry is fears extravagance. It extracts interest on trouble before it comes due. It constantly drains the energy God gives us to face daily problems and to fulfill our many responsibilities. It is therefore a sinful waste.
A woman who had lived long enough to have learned some important truths about life remarked, “Ive had a lot of troublemost of which never happened!” She had worried about many things that had never occurred, and had come to see the total futility of her anxieties.
An unknown poet has written:
“I heard a voice at evening softly say,
Bear not your yesterdays into tomorrow,
Nor load this week with last weeks load of sorrow.
Lift all your burdens as they come, nor try
To weigh the present with the by-and-by.
One step and then another, take your way;
Live day by day!“
In the book Streams in the Desert, Mrs. Lettie B. Cowman tells of a minister who was heavily burdened under a load of anxiety and care. After carrying this weight for quite some time, he one day imagined that he could place his burden on the ground and stand back a pace or two. Then he could look at it and analyze it. When he did, he discovered that it was made up almost entirely of borrowed things. A good portion of it belonged to tomorrow. An even larger amount of it belonged to the week to come. And a sizable percentage was a carryover from his yesterdays.
Mrs. Cowman indicated that this pastor was guilty of “a very stupid but a very ancient blunder.” He had made the mistake of burdening himself in the “now” with things that belonged to “yesterday and tomorrow.” “Never yield to gloomy anticipations,” she concluded. “Who told you that the night would never end in day? Who told you that the winter of your discontent should proceed from frost to frost, from snow and hail and ice to deeper snow? Do you not know that day follows night, . that spring and summer succeed winter? Place your hope and confidence in God. He has no record of failure.”
While touring Italy, a man visited a cathedral that had been completed on the outside only. Once inside, the traveler found an artist kneeling before an enormous wall upon which he had just begun to create a mosaic. On some tables nearby were thousands of pieces of colored ceramic. Curious, the visitor asked the artist how he would ever finish such a large project. The artist answered that he knew how much he could accomplish in one day. Each morning, he marked off an area to be completed that day and didnt worry about what remained outside that space. That was the best he could do, and if he did his best, one day the mosaic would be finished.
“Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.” Thomas Carlyle
Well-known commentator and author Eric Sevarid said that the best lesson he ever learned was the principle of the “next mile.” He recalled how he learned the principle:
“During World War II, I and several others had to parachute from a crippled Army transport plane into the mountainous jungle on the Burma-India border. It was several weeks before an armed relief expedition could reach us, and then we began a painful, plodding march out to civilized India. We were faced by a 140-mile trek, over mountains in August heat and monsoon rains.
“In the first hour of the march I rammed a boot nail deep into one foot; by evening I had bleeding blisters the size of 50-cent pieces on both feet. Could I hobble 140 miles? Could the others, some in worse shape than I, complete such a distance'
“We were convinced we could not. But we could hobble to that ridge, we could make the next friendly village for the night. And that, of course, was all we had to do.”
Eric Sevarid used the “next mile” principle many other times during his career, whether the task was writing a book or writing scripts for radio and television.
One day Dwight Morrow and his wife, the parents of Anne Lindbergh, were in Rugby, England. After wandering through the streets they realized that they had lost their way. At this moment an incident occurred that entered into Morrows philosophy and became a guiding principle in his life. He stopped a little Rugby lad of about 12 years. “Could you tell us the way to the station?” he asked. “Well,” the boy answered, “You turn to the right there by the grocers shop and then take the second street to the left. That will bring you to a place where four streets meet. And then, sir, you had better inquire again.” “
“This answer came to symbolize for Dwight Morrow his own method of approaching complicated problems,” writes Harold Nicolson in his excellent biography. “It implied in the first place a realistic skepticism regarding the capacity of human intelligence. It was in the second place an object lesson in the inevitability of gradualness. And in the third place, it was a parable of how, when the ultimate end is uncertain, one should endeavor to advance, if only a little way, in the correct, rather than the incorrect direction.