Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business, and make a profit.” 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. James 4:13-14
How do you keep track of your tomorrows? Do you plan them out, meticulously calendaring work and social events on your phone and reviewing tomorrow’s agenda before bed? Or do you stand by your paper calendar and a scribbled to-do list? Even if you don’t plan for the tomorrows of life, you probably operate under the assumption that you should. Human wisdom has generally run along the lines of the African proverb that says, “Tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” If we’ve got a plan ready to execute, we may feel that when tomorrow arrives, we will have whatever it takes to meet it head on. We are in control of our destinies!
Except for when we aren’t. When something like a global pandemic strikes and all of our tomorrow’s suddenly freeze in place and we’re afraid that perhaps they may not even arrive. That’s when the thought occurs that maybe we weren’t actually in control of anything. At all. Control was an illusion that simply made it easier for us to get through our days.
We aren’t the first people who had convinced themselves that they were in control of their futures. Sometime before AD 62, the writer of the Bible book of James cautioned, “Look here you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit. Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:13-15)
The Biblical view of life is that God is in control of all my tomorrows. The Bible specifically says that God “works all things according to the counsel of his will…” (Ephesians 1:11). “Yes,” you may say, I know that and yet, I still struggle with fear over an unknown tomorrow.” Author Deborah Howard says, “We must know that God is in control. Often we lose sight of that. It’s easy to start believing that we are in control, especially when things are going our way. We see ourselves as masters of our own fate, so to speak. We can carelessly glide our way through life that way until when? Until we are brought face to face with a situation definitely, obviously and completely out of our control.”
Perhaps that is how life has felt to you lately.
James wrote to Christians who were isolated and, we can tell from what James wrote to them about, that they were experiencing trials and poverty. They may have scattered from Jerusalem after Stephen was stoned to death there. Clearly, none of these early Christians had thought that tomorrow’s agenda would include oppression and lonely trials. James encouraged them to “consider it all joy.” (James 1:2) But he told them why they still had a reason for joy. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. (James 1:2-3 NASB). James goes on to point out that when we put up with the unexpected hardship our tomorrows bring by submitting to what God is doing in our lives, our ability to endure increases and develops so that we ultimately grow to be as he says, “perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (James 1:4).
The Bible tells us, that when life feels out of control, God is in control of the life of the Christ follower. The unexpected hardships we didn’t plan for, and can’t manage, have a perfection-working job to do that God is masterminding. If this is news to you, be encouraged! If it’s a reminder for you, share this reassurance with someone who needs it today.
Resource reading: Ephesians 1:1-15