Tap. Tap. Tap. Your fingers idly graze the keyboard as you slurp down another almond milk latte. You’ve been in this coffee shop for hours and have produced no more than your name and a few lackluster sentences. Frustrated, you slam your laptop closed. “Tomorrow will be a better day.”

Many days will be difficult, unproductive days. That is a fact of life. However, we must be wary of slipping into an arrival mindset instead of being present and proud of ourselves for the journey taken so far. The word “when” often trickles into our vocabulary in times of crisis, resulting in statements like: “when I become this, or when I get there, life will be better.”

In Matthew 6, Jesus paints a different picture. It’s not those who strive constantly at every hour who feel nourished, but rather those who trust in their Heavenly Father to provide in the unlikeliest moments. I want to be careful in how I interpret this teaching from Jesus here, as in no way is he justifying laziness. Sitting in one’s room all day counting the dots on the ceiling likely won’t result in the dream God’s placed on your heart coming to fruition. There is an element of action required in every dream. Look no further than the journey of Jesus’ own disciples to see that life isn’t a cake walk.

Early on in Jesus’ ministry he sends out his twelve apostles from town to town with “nothing more than a wooden staff.” They are expected to walk barefoot throughout the town, reliant on the kindness of strangers to keep them fed. But take a deeper look at what’s going on here:

  1. The disciples are sent out with nothing, making them trust God for their provisions.
  2. At the same time, the disciples must take the first step to embark on a trying journey. There is an element of work involved.

What is Jesus trying to show us here?

In many ways, He is imploring us to stay focused on the task at hand, be present, and avoid fretting about what the next day will bring. Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

If you’re beginning a long term project, take it a day at a time. Writing a novel doesn’t happen in a day. Building a house takes months of blueprinting, planning, and physically laboring. Oftentimes, however, we get wrapped up in the final outcome before we start our first draft. This results in feelings of not being present, as the final outcome is so fixated in our brains that it acts like a horse blinder to the world around us. Many times have I forgotten to acknowledge God and the people around me in my personal pursuit of success.

What are THEY doing?

It’s often said that comparison is the killer of contentment. With more ways to compare ourselves to others than ever before (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn), we are constantly setting our barometer of  happiness to that of our coworker, our neighbor, our best friend.

The book of James is written by Jesus’ half-brother, who of anyone in history had reason to be jealous and comparative. You think you have middle-child syndrome? Imagine your brother being God incarnate, fawned by thousands wherever he goes. And yet James says the following:

“Friends, don’t complain about each other. A far greater complaint could be lodged against you, you know.” (James 5:9 MSG)

Earlier in his writings, he points out the extremes people will go to in order to have MORE than their neighbor does.

“You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.” (James 4:2 NIV)

“Killing” to get what you want may not seem applicable to today’s day and age, but maybe we metaphorically do so by gossiping and undercutting the work of others to make ourselves feel better. Social media isn’t inherently a bad thing, but we must be careful as to how we consume it. If it produces feelings of jealousy and envy we might need to re-evaluate our mindsets going into it.

I get it. It’s not easy to see your lazy friend score a promotion while you’ve slogged it out at the same company for six years without a single shout-out. Rather than compare yourself to that person, be happy for them. As Paul says in Romans 12, “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” It’s not as if God has an exclusive blessing plan for that person and wants to leave you high and dry. Instead, see that person as an inspiration, not as a rival to conquer.

“Okay, they’re crushing it in this area. What are my strengths? Where can I crush it, so to speak?”

Do it for the ‘Gram

Not to rag on social media, but the overuse of it can lead to feelings of detachment or not being present. I speak from personal experience.

On my first hike in Washington I was floored by the majestic mountains towering before me. Being from pancake-flat Florida, I wanted to document this experience for all my friends back home to prove elevation does in fact exist, snapping videos and photos at every turn in the process.

My buddy Kyle called me out on it. “Why are you hiking in the first place if your motivation is to look at how great is later? Why not just look at it now? Be present.”

It dawned on me. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to share an experience with your posse back home, but that shouldn’t be the focal point. Even if you’re not on a picturesque hike, God has placed beauty all around you. Don’t be too focused on being somewhere else that you miss being present where you are right now.

Some practical steps I’ve found that help me to be present:

  1. Go to bed and wake up with Jesus:  I still struggle with this one, as my first instinct in the morning is to check ESPN or Facebook to see the day’s most captivating news.  Having worked in journalism I know that the negative, juicy stories make their way to the top while the uplifting, everyday stories are shoved to the back page. DO be an informed citizen of the world and be present. There is nothing wrong with that. DON’T, however, let the heaviness of the world bog you down to start your day.  Doing so thrusts you into a world of anxiety and worry, shifting your focus to places you’ve never been to or people you’ve never met. Later on in Matthew 6, Jesus says: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
  2. Count your blessings:  My all-time favorite Christmas movie is White Christmas despite having seen it 12 and a half times. I say half because I definitely fell asleep midway through once. In the movie, Bing Crosby sings a song about counting his blessings when he has trouble sleeping. His mind shifts away from his anxieties and onto the areas that bring him joy. It’s simple, but it works. When you start to long for “better” days, remember what you have in front of you, whether it’s a fresh roll of toilet paper or a food you haven’t had in a while.
  3. Success takes time: There’s nothing sexy about being a “consistent” person, however it is the foundation that so-called epic moments grow out of. Nothing comes instantaneously, and if anyone tries to downplay that notion they likely aren’t showing you all the work that took place behind the scenes. 

Resist comparing yourself to your attractive friend who just launched a best-selling app. You don’t know their story and they don’t know yours.