Desiring to Know the Future

December 30, 2021

It is typical in January to cast eyes toward the coming year, to make plans, to speculate, and to generally think about what comes next. And it’s good to make plans. But it is also foolish to assume that our plans will survive contact with the random and unforeseeable events that inevitably await us just around the corner. Divine Providence talks about humanity’s desire to–as well as inability to–see the future, in the chapter with the very long title, “It Is a Law of Divine Providence That a Person Not Perceive or Sense Anything of the Operation of Divine Providence, but Still Know about And Acknowledge It” (nn. 175-190). The case is well summed up in number 175:

“Since a foreknowledge of future events takes away fundamental humanity, which is to act in freedom in accordance with one’s reason, therefore it is granted to no one to know the future. But it is permitted everyone to employ his reason to form conclusions about things to come. Reason with all its constituents is then engaged in its life. It is because of this that a person does not know his lot after death or know any outcome until he arrives at it. For if he were to know, he would no longer consider in his inner self how he should act or live in order to arrive at it but would think only in his outer self that he was approaching it; and this state closes the interior constituents of his mind in which the two faculties of his life mainly reside, the faculties of freedom and rationality.”

And it goes on to say that desiring to know the future is in fact harmful, but it can be mitigated by building up a trust in the Lord:

“A desire to know the future is innate in most people, but it is a desire that takes its origin from a love of evil. Consequently, it is taken away from people who put their trust in Divine providence, and they have imparted to them a confidence that the Lord is directing their lot, so that they do not wish to know it beforehand lest in some way they inject themselves into Divine providence. This the Lord teaches in several ways in Luke 12:14-48.”

So how do you do that? How do you get to a place of trust and faith in the Lord’s handling of the future such that you can make plans but hold them lightly and without fear of how they may be impacted by unforeseen (by you) events? Through prayer and repentance. Since we are told that the desire to know the future is at its root evil, we can repent of it. Note it in yourself. Observe ways in which it causes suffering, for you or for others through you. Ask the Lord for help in trusting Him, praying as did the father of the possessed child in Mark 9:24, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Commit to approaching the future differently, with trust in the Lord and acceptance of whatever may come in His providence. And when you are in temptation, pray, and bring the Lord’s presence into your mind to fight the battle for you.

And still make plans. Still use your reason to make reasonable predictions so you can live your life. Plans are not evil, only the arrogant insistence that all our plans come to fruition is. Enjoy the moment you are living, appreciating all the good there is in it. Trust the Lord, and His providence will see you through to a good end.

Mac Frazier, Pastor
Washington New Church, 2021-12-29

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