Short vs. Long term thinking
‘Don’t think of now, focus on the future.’
‘Don’t worry, one day it won’t be like this.’
We have all been given this advice, offered it to others, or proscribed it to ourselves. But surely we have also done the same with the following:
‘Just take one day at a time.’
‘Don’t think of the future, concentrate on the now.’
Yet which stance is right? Which advice should we take?
Our long term is devoid of hope
The problem with the first set of encouragements is that for us Watchers long term is very long term. The ‘foreseeable future’ is generally what people label as long term. Yet when someone suffers from a chronic illness there is often no hope squatting on the horizon to look forward to. The ‘foreseeable future’ is not long term enough for us, because our future contains no resolution to focus on. In this sense ‘long term thinking’ is impossible. We can have no hope that an end will come, that a cure will be formulated.
Our long term is amazing
For Christians of course, we can look at the long long term. We can (quite rightly) rest in the fact that Heaven will be a place with no sickness. That life on this earth will not continue forever. That even if our Loved One never experiences relief in the here and now, one day, if they know Jesus, it will come eventually.
Such thinking can be a great comfort to us. And yet… for others, looking in on our situation, it can seem problematic. They may argue that we have no real, concrete hope in this world. They may think our talk of heaven or death morbid or depressing. We may seem impractical to them, or blind, refusing to accept the realities of the world.
Our long term seems depressing
I do not think this is true. Long term thinking, if we are latching onto the Right long term hopes, can bring us immeasurable contentment and peace in the now. Long term thinking puts present pain into perspective. It makes everyday trials more significant by realizing that they are part of a larger plan. It does not discount them. If we only think in the short term we are missing the beauty and hope the bigger picture can offer.
Our short term is very short
Let us now look at short term thinking. For those of us who Watch those with chronic illnesses, short term is often very short term. Rather than being days or weeks, it becomes hours or minutes. Due to the all-consuming intensity of suffering, looking at it for more than a minute at a time can be too much. Instead we need to take it second by second, for our own sanity, if nothing else.
Our short term seems depressing
This sort of thinking can seem utterly devoid of hope to some. How, they wonder, can you possibly live without anything to look forward to? It may seem a too practical, even unspiritual, way of looking at life. After all, how can you think of eternity when you’re busy trying to get through the next minute of your Loved One’s agony? Perhaps we seem naïve – we’re not looking at the bigger picture – or simplistic, focusing on the trivial rather than important.
Our short term is amazing
Nevertheless, short term thinking is as helpful as long term thinking. After all, it gets us through the day. Our God is a God who has sanctified the little things, the tiny moments. He came down and walked and lived. He enjoyed the passing of days and years… He did not stand with His hands behind His back and explain to Mary that having enough wine for a wedding was inconsequential in light of eternity. God is not only present at the end of life, but all through it.
So… long term or short term?
Both long and short term thinking are God given gifts of coping. Each is useful in its time and place – and it is only because of Him that we can utilize both to their true potential. When the tiny moments are overwhelming and we can’t possibly see the bigger picture, we can know that it is indeed there. When all we see is the mountain, we can hold onto the hope that the city is beyond it.
Most of all we can cling to the reality that outside of time God exists. He is not constrained to either short or long term vision. He holds all eternity in a single hand, and cradles the tiny hours of the night to His chest.
Where ever we are, in whatever state we are in, He is there – in front of us, behind us, beside us.
//What do you think – are you more inclined to think in the ‘long’ or ‘short’ term? Do you think latching onto either one is dangerous?
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