One thing I do when I'm feeling anxious and overwhelmed.

The Holy Spirit spoke a phrase to me one day when I was feeling very anxious about the future. anxiety

I was a brand new dad, working as a full time youth pastor in my first ministry position and still finishing up Bible school all at the same time. Sitting at my desk feeling like the world was crashing in around me, the Holy Spirit whispered this phrase to my soul, “Look ahead but don’t live ahead.” 

I instantly knew what He wanted to teach me.

It was good for me to look or plan ahead mentally but not to try and live ahead emotionally. We have to take each moment and day as they come. We can’t prematurely try to live in tomorrow. For many leaders, visionaries, and parents this can be a difficult truth to swallow!

Planning is a good thing and every person has to engage with this practice at some level.

We plan vacations.

We make strategic plans for businesses and ministries.

We financially plan for retirement.

We meal plan for the week.

Planning is good, godly and necessary.

Yet, over planning can produce unhealthy and unnecessary anxiety.

When we have imaginary conversations with people before the stressful confrontation needs to happen. When we have contingency plans piled upon contingency plans only to find out that none of them were realistic or needed.

Corrie Ten Boom nailed it when she said...

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” 

If I'm honest with myself, much of my planning can become rooted in anxiety and become a futile attempt to control my environment.  

When you think about how little we can actually control in our lives it’s a sobering thought!

I can’t control my next heartbeat.

I can’t control my wife or my children.

I can’t control the people who work with me.

I can’t control the church family that I serve.

I can’t control the weather, the stock market, traffic lights or how well my favorite sports teams play!

I’m not saying we should be fatalist or live with a victim mentality. FAR FROM IT!

What I am saying, is that even though I can dramatically influence things through prayer and shape things through wise the stewardship of my time, health, money and relationships, ultimately I have to trust Jesus for EACH DAY as they come.

Jesus laid down some daily management "gold" for us when He said it this way in Matthew 6  (the Message Paraphrase):

 34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

When I feel anxiety welling up on the inside and my outlook is colored with an overwhelmed point of view, I have to remind myself, “Josh, Look ahead but don’t try to live ahead!”


Join the conversation.  Leave a comment.

  • What are some things you speak to yourself when you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed?
  • Where would you place yourself on the planning continuum: under-planner or over-planner?
  • What circumstance or people in your life have you tried to “control” only to realize that it ends up leaving you more overwhelmed and frustrated?