When Foresight Fails (August 13)


“In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand; for you do not know which will prosper, either this or that, or whether both alike will be good” (Ecclesiastes 11:6).

ALTHOUGH WE CANNOT SEE FAR, WE CAN JUDGE RIGHTLY WHAT IS NEAR. One of my favorite quotations from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is the reply made by Aragorn when Gimli suggested that Gandalf’s advice had been wrong because it had resulted in the loss of Gandalf’s own life: “‘The counsel of Gandalf was not founded on foreknowledge of safety, for himself or for others,’ said Aragorn. ‘There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark.'”

The fact that we have so little ability to foretell the future is not an accident. It was God who chose to limit our field of vision to that which is immediately in front of us. It should be evident that if this was God’s choice, then no more foresight than what we have is needed to fulfill the purpose for which we were created. However interesting or helpful we may think it would be to see further ahead, God apparently knew that such an ability would hinder us. We were made to work productively in the present moment, and the equipment we were given is exactly the right equipment for the business of human living.

But wouldn’t it help us deal more wisely with the present if we could know the future? Probably not. Most of us will have to admit that even on those occasions when we do know what’s going to happen, we tend to do very little about it. If we’ve been poor stewards of our time, it’s probably not fair to blame that problem on a shortage of information about the future. But be that as it may, we do not really need to know any more about tomorrow than we do. The various pieces of our lives need to be connected to one another in a pleasing pattern, certainly. But God has chosen that the most pleasing pattern is achieved not when we foresee the whole thing from start to finish but when we deal with each day’s piece as if that were the only one.

“If a man lay himself out to do the immediate duty of the moment, wonderfully little forethought, I suspect, will be found needful. That forethought only is right which has to determine duty, and pass into action. To the foundation of yesterday’s work well done, the work of the morrow will be sure to fit. Work done is of more consequence for the future than the foresight of an archangel” (George MacDonald).

Gary Henry – WordPoints.com

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