That giant, vast, and gaping abyss of the unknown.
It’s perhaps little wonder that we, as a society, have always been fascinated with the possibilities that result from being able to glimpse past the blurriness of the unknown, and see clearly and starkly what will happen to us. Whether it’s prophecies, such as the Oracle’s within Greek mythology, visions of the future, looking at tea leaves, checking a horoscope, or even crystal ball gazing. Particularly within science fiction, countless stories and narratives tackle such concepts of being able to peek into the future, whether through means of a time machine or even simply being visited by your future self.
The future has been and still is a central part and influence of humanity, affecting our decisions, thoughts and worldview.
Because what the future essentially is, is that unknown and impenetrable part of our lives that we have no way of knowing or preparing for - even if society claims the opposite.
Like in the previous article, we outlined that we can never change the past because it is set firmly in stone; it's the opposite when we discuss the future. Because if we view our past as an immovable and unchangeable solid, our future becomes like water - ever-changing, unpredictable, and a constant reflection of our past and present actions.
The only assurance we can have of the future is when our 'future' becomes our present. Otherwise, we have no idea what, good or bad, awaits us.
And that's the hard, simple truth of our future.
It's the fact we don't know.
A matter of perspective
Perhaps, as teens, the threats that the future poses may not seem as immediate to us. Instead, we simply leave thoughts of the future for an unspecified and vague date much, much later - and if we were to be truly honest with ourselves, we would be happy to never have to think about it.
Or maybe, we're more inclined to worry. Nervous about the unknown trials that we aren't even entirely sure will come, we spend our time anxious and scared of what's to come. And these worries leave us feeling drained and unmotivated, even to complete tasks that we previously would have enjoyed.
And maybe still, some of us view the future confidently. After all, are we not the post-modern generation? The future is ripe and ours for the taking, and we make countless determined plans for the future. Even if our 'Plan A' doesn't work, we've got the rest of the alphabet at our fingertips. We view the future victoriously, for we consider it to belong to us.
Sharing from my perspective on the future, I've always viewed the future with a level of intimidation. Just like how I, as an inexperienced suburb-living student, would regard a wild animal - although I may feel somewhat excited, for the most part, I would be frightened, not knowing what it would do to me. And, for me, that's the most terrifying part about the future.
It's something I don't know, and I can't ever know.
Or is it?
An all knowing God
Have you ever stood on the shoreline at the beach? With gentle waves lapping at your feet, and the grainy sand firm underneath, you feel at ease.
But when the waves come, the water crashes onto you with unexpected fury. You're swept off your feet and crash into the crumbling sand.
Especially with the abundance of problems that we already have in the present, we're so scared that the future will crash onto us a wave of unexpected change and hardships. And we've all probably experienced first-hand that no matter how stable the sand underneath us feels or how much we've prepared, the wave always leaves us sprawling on the ground.
It's this particular topic that James writes about in his letter James.
One of the major leaders of the Jewish church during early Christianity, James addresses his words to the Jewish believers scattered around the ancient world. Following the martyrdom of Stephen, these scattered believers were surrounded by the constant threat of torture and suffering. It's little surprise that they were anxious and unsure, wondering what new trial was just ahead, and maybe, just like us, they tried to make plans to grasp at whatever secure future was slipping from their hands.
That's exactly what James addresses in his following words,
"Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, 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. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that. " (James 4:13-17)
We can't know the future, and neither can we control it.
But God can.
After all, He is, well, God! He is the Alpha and Omega (Revelation 22:13), and both know and understand the past and the future. And it is in the hands of this eternal, all-powerful, and omniscient Lord that the future is held.
The author of Hebrews describes Jesus as the 'Author of Life' and 'Finisher of our faith' (Hebrews 12:2), and these two names reveal very special truths about the relationship between us, God, and the future.
1. Author of Life
Notice how the author of Hebrews decides to refer to Jesus not as 'Creator of life', as we would normally assume, but as the Author. And that's a pretty significant detail. As Author, He knows and is actively involved in the whole story of our lives - including our future. He knows what's best for us, and He grants us, His children, a precious promise - that all the things in our lives, in the past, present and future, will ultimately be for our good.
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)
2. Finisher of our Faith
God doesn't only create us and leave it at that. He is actively involved in all dimensions of our lives, and He walks with each of us individually every step of the way. We won't have to venture into the future alone, but His grace overflows daily to sustain us continually.
John Piper, an influential evangelist and preacher, calls this continual grace, 'future grace'. In his words, "future grace is God's power, provision, mercy, and wisdom—everything we need—in order to do what he wants us to do five minutes, five weeks, five months, five years, and five thousand years from now."
The sand swirls beneath our feet, and ahead of us, we can see the relentless wave racing toward us.
Sure, we're afraid.
But we're not alone, and we'll never have to be