by Shannon Caughey
In post-season tournaments, coaches typically adopt a “survive and advance” mentality. You just try to survive the present game/match so that you can advance to a better game/match. It’s tempting to approach challenging seasons of life with this same “survive and advance” perspective. You just try to survive the present situation until things advance enough to hopefully get to a better situation.
This “survive and advance” mentality can potentially be harmful, however. Why? It can cause us to miss the full experience of what God is doing right now because we’re more focused on biding our time until a better future arrives.
Psalm 16 opens with the psalmist praying, “Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge.” He’s obviously facing a challenging situation. But rather than adopting a “survive and advance” approach, listen to the psalmist’s perspective in vv. 7-8: “I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.”
Here’s what the psalmist is doing: he focuses on God’s presence in the present. He worships God in the present, listens to God in the present, looks for God in the present, trusts God in the present, and rests in God in the present. The psalmist may be looking forward to better circumstances in the future, but he’s also determined to embrace what God is doing right now. He knows God is present and at work in the present.
Psalm 16 points to a two-part game plan for moving away from a “survive and advance” mentality so that we don’t miss what God is doing right now:
1. Praise God for his presence in the present.
As hard as our current situation may be, we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is with us – right beside us, as the psalmist puts it. Praise God that he is present, he cares for us personally, and he is faithful. Praise God for his Word through which we can hear his voice, receive his counsel, and benefit from his instruction. Praise God that we are secure in him when we place our faith in his Son Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. When going through a challenging season, be intentional about praising and worshiping God day by day.
2. Pay attention to God’s work in the present.
Whatever the current circumstances, God is still very much at work. In fact, challenging times give us a unique opportunity to experience God’s work in us and through us – if we’re paying attention in the present rather than only looking to the future. By reminding himself that the Lord is always with him, the psalmist is focusing on keeping his eyes fixed on God and his ears open to what he’s saying – right here and right now. God is speaking, guiding, and teaching us in the present. Pay attention to him by spending time with him and looking for his work today.
Coach, you might be in the midst of a challenging season of life. It’s understandable to look forward to when things will hopefully get better. Even so, resist the temptation to get stuck in a “survive and advance” mindset. Don’t miss what the Lord is doing right now. Focus on God’s presence in the present, praising him and paying attention to his activity. You will be grateful in the future if you make the most of the unique opportunity in the present to grow closer to the Lord.
For reflection: Take some time to praise God for who he is and what he’s doing in this current season. Ask him to help you keep your eyes fixed on him and your ears open to what he’s speaking to you.