Ask anyone in recovery, whether it’s a member of Alcoholic Anonymous, a person in drug rehab, or a man struggling with porn addiction, and they’ll say this: you have to do it one day at a time. It’s no good looking far into the future and imagining what it’s like to be free of whatever addiction or demon besets us. We can only live in the moment, and do our best to make good decisions today, this day. We’ve all heard this so often that it has become something of a cliché. One day at a time, we hear from counselors, from friends, from mentors, from out accountability partners. We hear it so much that we are a bit dead to it.
But it’s not mere cliché. For that matter, a saying only becomes a cliché because it contains truth. If there were no truth there, it wouldn’t be repeated enough to become cliché. A cliché is a proverb that has had a lot of success.
In the case of “One day at a time,” the cliché originates with . . . Jesus. He said it in Matthew 6:-34:
“Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
In the midst of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow. It’s another way of saying one day at a time.
And it’s great wisdom. We cannot change tomorrow. Yet. We can only change tomorrow when it comes to us. We must receive the blessings and trials of each day as they come.
Easy said, right? Not so easy to do. But, really, what else can we do? We are all locked within time. Not a one of us can reach forward to tomorrow or backward to yesterday.
Also, look at the verses just before this in Matthew. Jesus is talking about worry and how it is contrary to dependence on God. The pagans worry, he says. But God knows what we need, and we should be about seeking the Kingdom.
So, we should deal with one day at a time when it comes to our food and our clothing. Makes sense that it should apply to the strength we need to resist temptation or do the right thing, too.
For that matter, even God deals with each day as it comes. I know, you’re going to say that God is outside of time, that he’s eternal. A day is as a thousand years to God.
And you’re right. God is outside of time. But we are not. So much of what God does uses, even depends on us. He used Noah, and Abraham, and Jacob, and Joseph, and Moses, and Joshua, and David, and Solomon . . . you get the point. God is outside of time, but we are locked in it. And God has always, since he created Adam and Eve, worked with the people he created. Sinful though we are, frail and foolish as we are, he works with us. He created us to be his allies. And since the day when we turned against him, he has worked to make us strong allies, soldiers in his war against Satan and the third of the angels who rebelled with him.
There can be only one reason for this. He loves us.
And because he loves us, he provides for us, works through us, and lives in us.
One day at a time.
So, the next time someone tells you to live one day at a time, take heart. Know that God is living this day with you. Look beyond the cliché, and see the one who made this day. He’ll make another one tomorrow, and give you everything you need to get through it.