The past is gone and tomorrow is God’s domain, we can’t know what it will bring, all we can do is today. For people like me who want to see steps ahead, be prepared, solve problems, this is a very hard concept. For some, one day at a time may come naturally but I am not geared for it.
Professionally, what makes me so great at my job is the ability to anticipate problems and fix them. Conversely, it can create a lot of anxiety when I am powerless to make things better and I can become discouraged when a problem feels insurmountable. In the last few years following a wonderful devotional has helped me portion out big problems into a daily walk with God.
And that, I can do.
Ecclesiastes 7:14 (MSG)
14 On a good day, enjoy yourself;
On a bad day, examine your conscience.
God arranges for both kinds of days
So that we won’t take anything for granted.
There is a neurological condition which causes some people to not be able to feel pain which might sound nice until you realize pain is useful. It is a warning to our bodies, it alerts us to problems. This is also the job of your conscience, your inner Jiminy Cricket.
By itself, it is an insufficient guide but it alerts us to things which may be harmful, works as a warning about what is and isn’t valuable to God. You know when things aren’t right with what you’re watching, listening to, participating in, commenting on. Often it’s a subtle resistance inside you, something that gives a mild discomfort. It has the taste of tin and the disquieting nature of a rattling refrigerator fan. Your body, and then your whole self yells in a slowly rising panic, “No, no, this is not for you. This is bad. Don’t do it.“.
Your conscience testifies to God’s existence. C.S. Lewis talks about this in Mere Christianity when he address his argument against God. He says, “What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?” How did he know what was just and unjust? It shows, as it says in Romans 2, “God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong.”.
Conscience is the sense of right and wrong and just as it confirms God, it confirms the presence of sin which seeks to steal our joy, keep us awake at night, shower us in grief, and break healthy relationships. We arm ourselves against internal peace and the goodness of God when we ignore our conscience, when through negative influences or harmful behaviours, we feed our brokenness.
“A Native American elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner: Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, The one I feed the most.”
It’s easy to tell black from white but so often we’re presented the shades between. Even the most seemingly benign, culturally acceptable, commonplace acts and influences can cause us great harm. In fact, especially those. Tonight, I had another conversation about the perils of technology when combined with the worst of ourselves. We think it serves us when we serve it.
Nothing is more insidious to corrupt our thought life than shows we watch, movies we pay for, music we download, and time we spend online that does not honour God. And it’s so much a part of our daily lives we often don’t even question its purpose, its nature, or its value. It can leave us immune to the sensitivities God would have us cultivate. I still remember living overseas, walking home, and realizing it was Fall — not because a saw a back to school ad or a commercial for pumpkin spice lattes but because I watched the wind rustle branches and the leaves floated down around me. I wasn’t influenced, I experienced.
As someone who works in the media industry, I’m not against technology or movies or pop culture — but as a consumer as well as creator, I do examine my conscience. Our thought lives can be places of richness or sickness. We can be empowered, enabled, wise, and generous but we can also be craven, hateful, and selfish. A healthy thought life distinguishes between the two and chooses to meditate on the things of God.
Philippians 4:8-9 (MSG)
8-9 Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious — the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
As the proverb goes, a clear conscience is a good pillow. We have to trust that voice, that inner cricket, even if at times it means the best thing for us is to not participate — then pray God will help us work out the details.