15 Instead you ought to say,
“If the Lord wills,
we shall live
and do this or that.” ~ James 4:15 (NKJV)
By Bro. John L. Cash
When I was a child, my older relatives taught me about all the old superstitions. Now to be clear, they didn’t actually believe that if you broke a mirror you’ll have seven years of bad luck. They just told me what people used say “back in the old days.” Because of them, I know a lot of interesting customs.
For instance, I was told you shouldn’t change the month on your wall calendar until the new month is (without question) actually here. I must admit that even though I’m a pastor (who tries not to be superstitious) I’ve been known not to flip the calendar to “April” even though it was 10 PM on March 31st. I think it’s a mixture of the old superstition combined with my grandmother’s view of a certain Bible verse.
My grandmother explained it to me this way. Christians should never speak (or do) anything that would indicate that they think that they are in control of the future. The Bible (in the book of James) says believers shouldn’t say they’re going to do this or that tomorrow or next week. Instead you should say you’re planning on doing these things if the Lord allows you to live and if it’s His will. After all, we’re supposed to always acknowledge that God’s in control of things, not us.
Something happened this week that made me realize this principle all over again. In normal times, I have a big academic-year-calendar-planner-datebook that is my constant companion. But since we’ve been sheltering in place, that has changed. Since the coronavirus has arrived, I haven’t looked at my planner much. Every day is quite a bit like the day before. And it’s awfully hard to pin down a date for anything right now because that keeps changing, too.
But, this week, for the first time in a long while, I opened my planning calendar. And as I looked at the month of May, I was taken aback by all the things I’d written down “pre-COVID.” To help me properly pace my lessons for the 2nd semester, I had begun a countdown in January. On the squares for every day for 5 months, I had a running, decreasing tally of the number of days before school was out for the year.
According to my previous planning, today I would have less than a dozen days left before summer vacation. In reality, all that writing was for nothing. My school year had ended (for all practical purposes) at the beginning of Spring Break. All my plans came to nothing. And I’ve got to admit, we teachers have no idea what the next school year is going to bring. We’re just going to wait and see.
Sometimes I’m not a patient person. And I really don’t like the “iffy-ness” this virus has created. I liked things the way they were before, back when my datebook contained a (fairly good) prediction of what I was going to be doing for the next month or so. I don’t do well with uncertainty.
But I’m pretty sure the Lord had a message for me the other day. Susan and I were listening to our pastor, Bro. Gary Howse, as he was leading online worship. He was preaching from the parable of the mustard seed. And in the midst of it he said something I’d never thought of before. He said, “The message of all of the parables is the same. Every parable teaches that it is God who controls the future.”
I feel more hopeful now. The sermon made me think of the words of a song we sang at the little country church:
“Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand.
But I know Who holds tomorrow,
And I know Who holds my hand.”
Put your faith in the Lord this week, and entrust the future to Him.
Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 34 ½ years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. He’s currently on a sabbatical from the preaching ministry, and is an English teacher at the Choctaw Tribal School. He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in a brick house in town (where the weather for backyard-quarantine was absolutely gorgeous this week.) You can send him a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.