And the cares of tomorrow can wait till this day is done
October 12, 2023
“So do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.
Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
In his new biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., author Jonathan Eig tells of King in his Birmingham jail cell pondering what seemed like everyone telling him to wait: “Why did everyone keep telling Black people to wait? The Kennedys said wait. Birmingham’s mayor said wait. The reverend Billy Graham said wait. The Black professional class in Birmingham said wait. Editorial writers for The New York Times said wait. Give the government time to act, they all said; keep the peace, and trust the process. But for King and the people he felt called to lead, waiting signaled acceptance of an unjust plight. Waiting represented complicity.”[i] Waiting was not King’s strong suit. He was so passionate about the mission to which he felt called that, according to Eig, “King slept only four hours most nights.”[ii] I don’t recall seeing medical studies which indicate that four hours of sleep a night is healthy. The mountains of hatred and prejudice against Blacks that King experienced led him to write his third book, Why We Can’t Wait (Harper & Row, 1964). Wait. Can’t wait. Wait.
For those who care deeply about justice, equality, and the nurturing of God-like attitudes and behaviors, passion and energy are often a natural outcome. There is a sense that the work is never finished, urgency prevails, and there is much more to do. It can feel like two steps forward and one step backward. Or vice versa. Clergy, with enthusiasm for the mission to which they feel called, can be susceptible to plowing ahead eagerly without regard to healthy practices of balance, rest, or renewal. Perhaps like King and like many clergy, Jesus’ disciples would develop a passion that could not wait. To them and to us, Jesus counseled “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Jesus knew that worry is wasted. In an article in Psychology Today titled “How Often Do Your Worries Actually Come True?” Seth J. Gillihan, PhD tells of a study where researchers at Penn State University had participants write down their specific worries for ten days whenever they noticed they were worrying. Here is what they discovered: “The result? A whopping 91 percent of worries were false alarms. And of the remaining 9 percent of worries that did come true, the outcome was better than expected about a third of the time. For about one in four participants, exactly zero of their worries materialized.”
The subtitle of an article (“Why We Worry”) by Victoria Stern in Scientific American summarizes the research with a few words: “the more we fret, the less our bodies are able to cope with stress.” So, to keep your soul in balance, your body healthy, and your efforts effective, today’s trouble is enough for today.
When Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote “Why We Can’t Wait,” he was correct. Day after day, our voices and actions are called upon to labor for justice. Yet burnout is counterproductive to our advocacy for the least of God’s children, which may be why Jesus told his followers, and us, not to worry about tomorrow.
There is a hauntingly beautiful Celtic song that seems to put Jesus’ soothing guidance to music. “Come By the Hills” was written by Scottish playwright W. Gordon Smith and set to the traditional Irish air “Buachaill On Eirne.” Perhaps one of its most beloved interpretations came from the Celtic Thunder singer Damian McGinty, who sang…
Come by the hills to the land where fancy is free,
And stand where the peaks meet the sky and the loughs meet the sea.
Where the rivers run clear, and bracken is gold in the sun,
And the cares of tomorrow can wait, till this day is done.
Come by the hills to the land where life is a song,
And stand where the birds fill the air with their joy all day long
Where the trees sway in time, and even the wind sings in tune.
And the cares of tomorrow can wait, till this day is done.
It is the last line for which every soul thirsts: “And the cares of tomorrow can wait, till this day is done.” The cares of tomorrow can wait, till this day is done. Inhale and exhale that deep breath of permission to let it go. This is the day the Lord has made, assures Psalm 118:24. Rejoice and be glad in this day. It’s not about tomorrow, but today. This moment. The cares of tomorrow can wait. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Let it go. Cherish this now.
I can’t let it go, Martin Luther King, Jr. might say. The mission is too urgent. I can’t wait. In the Bible, the word wait is a good substitution word. It can also mean trust. For example, Isaiah 40:31 uses the word wait: “those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Here, as in many verses in the Bible, the word trust can be substituted for the word wait. It could just as easily be “those who trust in God shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles…” To trust in God is to wait. And the cares of tomorrow can wait… we can trust in God and place into God’s hand the worries of today.
When Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote “Why We Can’t Wait,” he was correct. The burning issues of injustice continue and even escalate, in some ways. Day after day, our voices and actions are urgently called upon to labor for God-like attitudes and behaviors. And yet, burnout is counterproductive to our advocacy for the least of God’s children, which may be why Jesus told his followers, as he tells us, “‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” (Mark 6:31). Today’s trouble is enough for today. The cares of tomorrow can wait till this day is done.
Rev. John Zehring has served United Church of Christ congregations for 22 years as a pastor in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine. He is the author of more than 30 books and e-books. His most recent book from Judson Press is “Get Your Church Ready to Grow: A Guide to Building Attendance and Participation.”