There is a lot of needless worry in the world. I suspect you and I regularly contribute to it.
The perspective we bring to each situation can greatly change whether our reaction is to worry and complain, or to rejoice and be thankful. That response is very important. As a Christian, I think that is important because there is a real God who delights in our joy and loves to hear our thankful hearts. Even secular people, missing that bigger reality, acknowledge that a happy and grateful mindset tends to have significant emotional and physical health benefits.
One of the ways to have a healthy perspective is to consider your life in the framework the Bible regularly encourages. That framework is to take each day, one day at a time. I would like to call this thinking—and living—incrementally.
This day by day approach does not mean that the Bible forbids or even discourages planning. The book of Proverbs tells us to consider the ant, who stores away for winter, and to be wise (Proverbs 6:6-8). Jesus tells us it is wise if we build a tower, to consider if we have enough resources and raw materials to finish (Luke 14:28-33).
Thinking incrementally is critical to keep from being overwhelmed. Jesus remarked to the disciples, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). At the same time, Lamentations 3:23 tells us that God’s mercies are “new every morning.” God provides the mercy and grace we need, one day at a time. We should not get ahead of ourselves by, as John Piper says, “fighting tomorrow’s troubles with today’s grace”.
The writer of Ecclesiastes described thinking incrementally as the way of happiness. After describing massive projects and building operations and sprawling gardens and huge flocks of animals (Ecclesiastes 2:4-23), he concludes that wisdom is to reject greed and be content with the day’s work: “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil” (Ecclesiastes 2:24). He repeats it again a few verses later, “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13).” The key principle is to choose contentment over greed. Living one day at a time is a practical way to do this: The writer of Ecclesiastes points out again: “The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep (Ecclesiastes 5:12).”
It would take too long to consider all of the passages of scripture that encourage this approach. Suffice to say, there are many other places that talk this way. Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Jesus urges his disciples to pray for their daily bread (Matthew 6:11), and Ephesians 4:26 says, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger”. James 4:13-15 reminds us not to presume on God for the future, but to trust Him moment by moment as we make plans.
One of the key applications of this realization is the need to pursue our joy every morning with God. Even if a day has gone well, it does not carry over. If your day has gone badly, thankfully, those need not carry over either. It seems like we wake up every morning with a fresh slate. Therefore at the very beginning of the day we have a decision to make as to whether or not we will be content and happy in God. So let’s think—and live—incrementally. We will be happier. And we will honor God as we reflect on our life in the units He gives life in—a day at a time.