The Conflict between Living in the Present and Planning for the Future

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” and in the same time you’ve heard the wisdom of living in the present moment. How would you reconcile the two?

In fact, the wisdom behind living in the present moment is that we are not to be crippled by the past guilt and future worries. Notice the two word “guilt” and “worries.” If you plan for the future, you will eliminate the worries and when that future becomes the past, you will not feel guilty for failure to plan.

There’s a difference between planning and worrying. Planning is to do everything necessary and humanly possible for the future that we have some control of. Worrying is just imagining a negative future.  Planning is a present activity; worrying is stewing without doing.  Planning is discerning; worrying is concerning.

According to a research, 40% of what we worry about never happens. 30% has already taken place and we can no longer change it.  Among the rest, 22% of what we worry about is beyond our control. Therefore, only 8% of our worry is valid.

If we plan diligently, we will be able to enjoy more of the present moment because we have less to worry about. A proper planning is to join God’s plan. God’s plan is revealed in God’s presence.  God’s presence is in the present moment. Don’t you think it would be fun to be in God’s presence and listen to His plan and participate in it by planning accordingly?

King Solomon taught, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5). Jesus also warned about the importance of planning, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’” (Luke 14:28–30).

Years ago, an elderly friend told me about her plan to move to a senior housing. She put her house on the market and search for a senior apartment to move to. The senior housings in our area (Bergen County, New Jersey) were very expensive. Some of them were too new for her to feel secure about moving in. The new companies have not been proven stability.  They could become bankrupt and she would be on the streets.

The ones that she found to be able to provide quality service, affordable, and financially strong are at least two hours away from the current community she had lived for half a century. That means she wouldn’t be able to see her old friends so often. She was having difficulty making a decision.

She share her worry with me. I told her that she had done her best with her God given wisdom to plan thoroughly. Even if it were a wrong plan, God would make it right because of her love for God. The Bible says, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).

God loves those who plan because God Himself is a planner, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11) We need to plan in accordance with God’s plan for us so that we will be always enjoying His presence.  After we do the diligence, we must leave the worries to God.

Therefore, there is no conflict between living in the present moment and planning for the future.

The Importance of Living in the Present Moment

Most people live their lives with one foot in the past and the other in the future, and piss on the present. It does not just mean missing opportunities, it is an offense to the Creator who created us to enjoy the present moment with Him without past guilt or future worries.

God’s presence is in the present. King David said, “You (God) show me the path of life. In your presence, there’s fullness of joy; and in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Ps. 16:11) King David found the ultimate happiness in God’s presence. Many people think God’s presence can only be found after we die, but King David was not talking about an afterlife experience.

When Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God,” he was using the present tense, meaning God’s kingdom, or God’s presence, is not just something of the future but can be found right at this moment, and he suggested that we find it before we look for what to wear and what to eat. (Mat. 6:25-34) If God’s kingdom is only in the future, we will starve to death before we find it.

After all the Bible says God’s kingdom is from eternity to eternity. That means from eternity past to eternity future. It encompasses the present moment. The kingdom of God is like the sky above our head, every time we look up, the sky is always there no matter how far we travel. Therefore, the kingdom of God can be found right at this moment.

Let me use a Taoist metaphor to describe the kingdom of God. A little goldfish was asking his mother goldfish, “I’ve heard about the ocean, mom. Where can I find it?” The mother fish replied, “You are in the ocean. You can’t see it, but you are in it, and it’s all around you.” In the same way, the presence of God is all around you.

So don’t ruin the present with the worry for the future and regret for the past. Seize the present moment. The outcome is magical. Jesus said, “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Mt 6:33) The magic is “all these things” will be given to you. That means all your needs will be provided and everything will fall together when you treasure the present moment.