This lesson makes life easy and simple!
(J. R. Miller, "Living by the DAY")
It is life's largeness which most discourages earnest and conscientious people. As they think deeply of life's meaning and responsibility, they are apt to be overwhelmed by the thought of its vastness. Life has manifold, almost infinite, relations toward God and toward man. Each of these relations has its binding duties. Every life has a divine mission to fulfill—a plan of God to work out.
Every individual life must be lived amid countless antagonisms, and in the face of countless perils. Battles must be fought, trials encountered, and sorrows endured.
Also, the brief earthly course—is but the beginning of an endless existence, whose immortal destinies hinge upon fidelity in the present life.
Looked at in this way, as a whole, there is something almost appalling in the thought of our responsibility in living.
Many a person who thinks of life in this aspect, and sees it in its wholeness, has not the courage to hope for success and victory—but stands staggered, well-near paralyzed, on the threshold. Despair comes to many a heart when either duty or sorrow or danger is looked at—in the aggregate.
But this is not the way we should view life. It does not come to us all in one piece. We do not get it even in years—but only in days—day by day. We look on before us, and as we count up the long years with their duties, struggles, and trials—and the bulk is like a mountain which no mortal can carry. But really, we never have more than:
one day's battles to fight, or
one day's work to do, or
one day's burdens to bear, or
one day's sorrow to endure,
in any one day.
It is wonderful how the Bible gives emphasis to this way of viewing life. When for forty years God fed His chosen people with bread from heaven, He never gave them, except on the morning before the Sabbath, more than one day's portion at a time. He positively forbade them gathering more than would suffice for the day; and if they should violate His command, what they gathered above the daily portion, would become corrupt. Thus early, God began to teach His people to live only by the day—and trust Him for tomorrow.
At the close of the forty years, the promise given to one of the tribes was, "As your days—so shall your strength be." Deuteronomy 33:25. Strength was not promised in advance—enough for all of life, or even for a year, or for a month—but the promise was, that for each day, when it came with its own needs, duties, battles and griefs—enough strength would be given. As the burden increased—more strength would be imparted.
The important thought here is, that strength is not emptied into our hearts in bulk—a supply for years to come—but is kept in reserve, and given day by day, just as the day's needs require.
When Christ came, He gave still further emphasis to the same method of living. He said, "So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today!" Matthew 6:34. He would have us fence off the days by themselves, and never look over the fence to think about tomorrow's cares.
The thought is, that each day is, in a certain sense—a complete life by itself. It has . . .
its own duties,
its own trials,
its own burdens,
its own needs.
It has enough to fill our heart and hands for the one full day. The very best we can do for any day, for the perfecting of our life as a whole—is to live the one day well. We should put all our thought and energy and skill into the duty of each day, wasting no strength—either in grieving over yesterday's failures, or in anxiety about tomorrow's responsibilities.
Our Lord, also, in the form of prayer which He gave his disciples, taught this lesson of living only by the day. There He has told us to ask for bread—for one day only. "Give us this day our daily bread." He again teaches us that we have to do only with the present day. We do not need tomorrow's bread now. When we need it—it will be soon enough to ask God for it, and get it. It is the 'manna lesson' over again. God is caring for us, and we are to trust Him for the supply of all our needs—as they press upon us. We are to trust Him, content to have only enough in hand for the day.
If we can but learn to thus live by the day, without anxiety about the future—the burden will not be so crushing. We have nothing to do with life in the aggregate—that great bulk of duties, responsibilities, struggles, and trials—which belong to a course of years. We really have nothing to do even with the nearest of the days before us—tomorrow. Our sole business is with the one little day, now passing. Its burdens will not crush us—we can easily carry them until the sun goes down. We can always get along for one short day. It is the projection of life into the long future, which dismays and appalls us. This lesson makes life easy and simple!