E32: Just today: A motto for dealing with anxious thoughts

PODCAST: Listen to this episode to get a powerful tool for dealing with anxious thoughts!

Are you familiar with anxious thoughts?

Worry. Stress. Anxious thoughts about the day-to-day matters of life. These are things that most of us are likely familiar with. Helen was a woman in her twenties dealing with those everyday realities when God sent a song into her heart. She wrote it down and it has become a much-loved and incredibly helpful song for many people around the world. In this episode, Helen joins Kathy and Milenko to talk about the song and why it has such an impact.

Watch the video version of this episode here:

Transcript: “Living the Gospel” podcast, Episode 32: Just today: A motto for dealing with anxious thoughts

This is ActiveChristianity’s “Living the Gospel” podcast. Join us as we explore different aspects of the gospel according to the Bible, and how we can put this into practice in daily life.

Kathy: Hi everybody, welcome to the “Living the Gospel” podcast; I’m Kathy and I’m here today with Milenko …

Milenko: Hi everybody!

Kathy: And we have a special guest in the studio today, our good friend Helen Simons.

Helen: Hi everyone!

Kathy: So, Helen’s joining us today because she wrote a song, actually, many years ago when she was younger, and it’s a song that we all love and we want to share with as many people as possible because we’ve all found it to be a personal help for us.

Milenko: The song’s called “Just today.” Helen, can you tell us a bit about what’s behind the song?

Helen: Well, behind the song is the fact that I was quite young, I was in my late 20s, and I was facing some new decisions and was quite unsure about my future. And I was in need about that, so I prayed and was thinking about it and I was anxious, and then God just gave me this song. The words just came down and I wrote them down and I felt it was really a gift from God. It’s been a blessing for me.

Kathy: So it wasn’t like you were sitting with a pen, scratching your head, “What should I write?”

Helen: No, not at all.

Kathy: It was kind of like it wrote itself.

Helen: Yes, that’s right, I mean the words just came to my mind and I wrote them down, and I realized that it was something God had given me. It was really a help.

Kathy: So, if you were to say what the song is about in a sentence, how would you describe it?

Helen: I think the biggest help for me is how to deal with anxiety, because that’s such a common thing, and it was common for me. Just to worry about this and that and especially when you’re young, you don’t know what the future holds, you know. But I learned from this – from God’s word really, because different verses come out in the song that God gave me – how to deal with anxiety, how to cast my cares on Him and take a day at a time. That’s I guess the biggest lesson.

Kathy: And when we’re talking about anxiety here, we are talking about the kind of anxiety that comes from the everyday circumstances of life, right? We’re not talking about anxiety as a condition which people do also struggle with.

Helen: No, just the everyday anxieties that come up through the circumstances of life.

Kathy: Situations, having to make decisions in day-to-day life …

Helen: Right.

Kathy: Ok, well I think the best way to start would be if we listen to the song first and then we can talk a little bit more about it. So, let’s give it a listen.

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“Just Today” Music Video

Milenko: Wow, that’s quite a song.

Kathy: Yeah, every time I listen to it, it gets me.

Milenko: What’s this song meant for you over the years, Kathy?

Kathy: Well to be honest, anxiety has been something that I’ve struggled with quite a bit in my life, especially when I was younger. Like you mentioned, thoughts about the future and you don’t know what’s going to come, and it can be hard to know how to plan for the future … I can think of specific situations in my life, specific circumstances that have come up, where I’ve actually, in the circumstance, I’ve sung this song to myself. When I’ve been kind of in that battle to overcome anxiety, where I’ve sung this song to myself, and it has been an actual weapon to overcome that anxiety in that circumstance. And to be honest, anxiety isn’t as much of a battle for me anymore. I used to feel like I was bound by it, and now I feel like I’m free! Obviously, I’m still tempted to anxiety now and then, but I’m not bound to it. I don’t have to. And I feel like this song has actually been instrumental in coming to that place for me.

Milenko: Wow. I remember this song, actually the first time it had made an impression on me. I was actually only eight years old, at a funeral. And I remember that song was sung, and I started to think a bit about that, how to deal with loss and grief as an eight-year-old you know, but it was just those words, “just today, just today.” I remember that. And I didn’t really understand them at the time of course, but over the years, it’s really become meaningful to me. And you know, just the line in the song “Gone the past; the future – come what may!” And, “In Your love, You’ve given me ‘today.’” And that’s really, for me, the essence of it, that it’s today I’m alive, today I’ve got to do with a living God whom I can have faith in, and what He does for me, that is the best.

Kathy: So, Helen, has this song actually continued to work with you over the years then, or has it kind of been like you wrote it, and it was for that time, and you’ve kind of moved on, or …?

Helen: No, no it wasn’t just for that time. It was a gift to me then and it really brought me a lot of peace, but life goes on you know, and eventually I did get married and had children, and many things come in life. I think actually that song means more to me today than it did then. I’ve had more need for it, and like you say, the burden can be lifted when we really deal with anxiety and trust God and trust His word. Then new temptations come, and you realize. “Oh! There’s some anxiety again!” But then I remember: I have today. Just today. God has not promised me anything in the future, except that His thoughts towards me are good. So, I know that He has my whole life in His hands. But I have needed that reminder – just today, and He has promised grace for today. That’s been a real help to me.

Kathy: So, I thought, one thing we could do here, is just to take a couple lines of the song and go over them, and talk a little bit about these lines. So, I wanted to start with … There’s a line that says: “Just today! Not one thought about tomorrow.” So, in a way, I think if you say something like that, it can sound a bit naïve in a way, right?

Helen: Right.

Milenko: Or a bit irresponsible.

Kathy: Yeah, irresponsible! Like I’m not even going to think about tomorrow because it’s all in God’s hands. So, what do you think? Should we really not think about tomorrow at all, or just kind of trust blindly that God’s going to take care of it, or …?

Helen: No, you know there’s an old translation of that verse that says, “Don’t worry about tomorrow,” that actually says, “Take no thought for tomorrow.” And to me, I’ve always thought that means “don’t take an anxious thought.” Not that I don’t think about tomorrow, but I’m not going to be anxious about tomorrow.

Kathy: Sorry, and you said that’s a verse that says that?

Helen: There is a verse, well in an old translation of the verse in Matthew there, that says, “Don’t worry about tomorrow,” I think it says. Well it used to say, “Take no thought for tomorrow.” And I took it that way, that it means no anxious thought, but that we have to think, especially if we’re young; we know that we have a future ahead of us and we need to be responsible, we need to …

Kathy: We do need to make some choices, right?

Helen: Yeah, we have a job, we have to … Maybe we have to move somewhere … Many, many different decisions, right? But at the same time, I know that God only has good thoughts. God’s word says that He has only a future and a hope for us. His thoughts are good towards us. But that I have to try things out maybe, and maybe talk to people, find out what suits me, if it’s education, for example. What comes more naturally to me to do? But along it all, I have to be completely committed to God and trust in Him that He will guide me; He will make it clear what is the very best for me. We have to take it by faith. I mean that’s my experience. You have to make decisions in faith as far as you best understand it at the moment. You make a decision, and then God will make it clear.

Milenko: Right. So, it’s a matter of being the person we are that God has created and living the life that we’re living, like the opportunities that we have; we have to be living in this world. But that we can do that without worrying, without being consumed by worry or letting that control our lives. That’s what it’s all about, right?

Helen: Right! And I think that if you’re consumed by anxiety, you can’t even think clearly.

Kathy: That’s true.

Helen: You actually aren’t open to be able to hear what God wants to say to you.

Milenko: So, having this faith really is a really healthy way of living too.

Helen: Very healthy way of living.

Kathy: So sometimes the fact is that we just have to go in faith, and make a decision. Because I think we can be so consumed with, “What does God want me to do?” that you almost get paralyzed into not making any decision. But sometimes you just have to say, “Okay, in faith I’m going to make this decision, and I believe that if it’s not the right decision, God will show it to me. He’ll close the doors that need to be closed, and He’ll open the doors that need to be opened, but now I’m going to take a step of faith and I’m going to have some action,” right?

Helen: That’s right, and I think the more we do that, the more we learn to trust God, because He shows us how safe it is to trust Him.

Kathy: And then another line that I thought to bring out is, “Every moment is planned for my salvation.” So that’s a strong statement.

Milenko: That’s a really strong statement, if you think about it. Every moment is planned for my salvation.

Kathy: But does that mean that every single thing that happens to me, good or bad – especially when you think about some of the bad things that happen – did God really plan for that to happen to me, you know?

Helen: What do you think, Milenko?

Milenko: I think the important … What God wants to get out of these situations is that I have this trust in Him and that I do His will. So, I don’t think it’s necessarily the physical situation that is what’s important.

Kathy: Right, like someone did something and it’s irritating, or …

Milenko: Yeah, but what’s important is what I get out of it, and in that way every moment is planned for my salvation. And without these situations, I wouldn’t see what comes up from me. For example, I can get … Someone says something to me, and you think, has God planned that that person should say that? The thing is that, what comes up in me, God has planned that I should deal with that. For example, irritation, or envy or discouragement, all these things come up in situations, and that’s my salvation, is that I can get to grips with that, and through God’s help, through the help of the Holy Spirit, that I can overcome that. And then I get saved through the situations, and in that way, you can see God is behind everything. And what the other person says, they have to answer for that to God, how God works in them. But for me, the situation that I’m in right now, this is where God can work in me. And in that way, I really don’t need to worry about what’s coming, I don’t need to worry about what’s been either, you know, all the things that have gone wrong, because that’s done. But right now, I’m living, and what’s happening now. Here I have to come into that mindset that I’m thinking like God thinks, that I can work together with Him. God has actually entrusted this situation to me. And that is really God’s plan for me, that I get saved. We’re talking about salvation, and salvation is from sin. That’s what we’re talking about, right? It’s the sin that dwells in me that comes up – that’s what I can be saved from. If you think about that then life becomes exciting and interesting too.

Helen: In other words, God has something for us to learn in every situation.

Milenko: He does.

Helen: So instead of being upset by something I don’t understand, perhaps … I think we all experience that we come into situations that we don’t expect, sometimes they can be quite tough! But God has something for me to learn. And then I need to have that mindset, right, that I want to learn here and I want to find out what’s dwelling in me of sin that I can get rid of in this situation.

Milenko: And that way too, I can also come into situations that are my fault. I’ve done something stupid, or you know, haven’t thought it through, and it’s landed me in a situation where, it’s really not pleasant. But even there, there I can really find my salvation. That makes it interesting, and that’s what we were talking about before too, that you don’t have to worry about if I make a wrong decision maybe, like is this God’s will or not God’s will? I don’t think it’s always that important for Him whether I choose to go to that college or to that school, or take this career or whatever, but what I learned in the situations I come in once I’ve made that decision and go a certain way. So, I don’t need to worry. God is there.

Helen: God is there.

Kathy: And He’s in control.

Helen: He’s in control, and then we have that fantastic verse in the Bible that so many of us know, that all things work together for good to those who love God. And you can wonder, well how can that be possible, if something very difficult comes my way or if I make a bad mistake, like you say? But God promises that it will work together for good, but only if I’ve got the mind to learn, only if I’ve got the mind to be saved in it. And then Jesus says also, which is such a comforting verse for me, He says “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28.

Kathy: The most appealing invitation you could get.

Helen: Isn’t it? Because anxiety, after all, is a heavy burden.

Kathy: Very.

Helen: But if I’m willing to come and learn, then it says, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart,” (Matthew 11:29) and that appeals to me so much, to really want to learn to be meek and accept what God brings my way and learn from it! I don’t know what you think, but when I think about a yoke, I think about a couple of oxen with this heavy yoke on them, but they have to go together. And if I’m going to learn of Jesus, I’ve got to be really close and willing to just learn from Him. And it’s like He’s saying, “Don’t be anxious; I’m with you, I’m right here. I’m going to help you to learn how to take this right.”

Kathy: And underneath all that is because He loves us! God loves us and He wants the very best for us, right? So underneath it all is like, you know we think of that verse, “Be anxious for nothing.” And it can be, is that really possible, be anxious for nothing? But if I believe with all my heart that God loves me and He’s going to make everything work out my best, then I can really lay hold of that verse: “Be anxious for nothing …” (Philippians 4:6.)

Milenko: But it is something I’ve to work on, isn’t it? Because these feelings of worry and anxiety, they come up; they’re part of our nature. It’s not as if I sing this song and after that I’m never going to feel that worry anymore. It’s going to come up. But that’s the point, that that’s what faith is, that I then have to go ahead and believe in God, even when I don’t see it, even when I don’t feel it, but I still have that trust in Him. And our faith isn’t necessarily that the situation is going to change or become better or anything. That could go on for the rest of my life – take illness, for example. It could be something that keeps going and that’s going to be there my whole life, but that through that, I don’t lose my salvation – that’s what I can have faith in. On the contrary, I can be saved.

Kathy: Yeah, you can use that to find these things that are in our human nature, in our flesh. In that situation, I find that. And it’s actually grace from God that I find that, so that I can overcome it and I can be transformed from it, right?

Milenko: And that difficult situation is transformed into something that is really worthwhile and really valuable …

Kathy: And for my best, like that verse says.

Milenko: … for my best, for my eternity. My relationship to God is only strengthened there.

Helen: That’s the point! I mean, the more we experience these things and put our confidence in God, the greater God becomes for me, and the more I know I can trust Him, whatever the situation.

Milenko: Right, and think that my prayer life can become stronger and stronger; I get this intimate relationship with God. I think that if we can get that out of the situation, then really, we can look to the future and have a bright future, no matter what comes upon our way.

Helen: And isn’t that just what Jesus wants? He wants us to be close to Him and learn, and He wants to be our best friend.

Milenko: Right, take the yoke together. And it’s not as if that yoke is going to be borne for all eternity. We’ve got eternity ahead of us, that’s what we’re aiming for.

Helen: And we need to lift our vision up and see that. I know that for myself. I need to, daily really, lift my vision up. Otherwise I’ll be dragged down again, and Satan will find a sneaky way to get in with these worrying thoughts.

Kathy: Well, that brings me to the next line that I thought we could talk about in this song. It says: “Satan tries to rob me of my peace, weigh me down with thoughts about tomorrow.” So, is that where these thoughts of anxiety have their origin, do you think? Is that where they come from, that Satan is trying to rob us of our peace?

Helen: I believe so. He’s a thief. He wants to distract me and fill my thoughts with other things. And I want my thoughts to be given to God. I want to be open to hear what God wants to say to me, and God will … it’ll never be thoughts of anxiety. So, I think anxiety only comes from one place. He stirs up my flesh, I mean, of course it’s in my whole being to be anxious, right? But Satan comes in with the thoughts.

Milenko: And he really makes use of it, doesn’t he?

Kathy: He knows exactly which buttons to push too, right?

Helen: It can be a real plague, and I myself have had to battle with that. I know it’s Satan that’s trying to distract me and weigh me down, and I have to take up a battle. Take God’s word and believe that God will help me through this, and I will cast my cares on Him, no matter what.

Milenko: And that’s really, that we really understand that those thoughts don’t come from God. God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, right? He’s given us a spirit of love and power and a sound mind. If we really think about that, then we can really separate out those thoughts, those negative thoughts, and say, “This is not from God, so I don’t have to listen to them.” I think you write further in the song too, “His efforts will all be in vain …”

Kathy: “… for my God in living faith I follow.”

Helen: Right. You know, this saying some of us have heard before where it says, “Faith in the word of life is the greatest power that exists in the universe.” And when we really believe God’s word and take these words as a weapon, then anxiety and fear, they have to flee!

Milenko: Yup, they do.

Helen: But it’s a battle. We can’t pretend it’s not a battle. That’s unrealistic.

Kathy: I’m just thinking now, about when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He said, “Get behind me Satan!” and He threw God’s word at him, right? I can have it like that! These thoughts can come … I know where they’re coming from, I know my enemy, that’s Satan, and I can say “Get behind me Satan! It’s written in God’s word, ‘Be anxious for nothing.’” It doesn’t say, “Don’t be anxious if it’s not that big of a deal,” right? It doesn’t say, “I suggest you don’t be anxious in this situation.” It says, “Be anxious for nothing.” And then that’s God’s word, and you throw that at Satan, and he has to flee when you have that living faith in the word!

Milenko: We’re dealing with the living God Himself. He’s alive, He’s real. This isn’t just a nice thought to have, “Just today.” It’s because we have to do with a living God, that’s why we can really have that as our motto. And our life, just today, not one thought about tomorrow, because it is in God’s hands and God knows everything. God is eternal; He sees the whole picture. He knows exactly what’s happening, and we can leave it to Him, because He only has thoughts of hope and a future for us. And if we really believe that and if we love Him, then those things will work out for the best.

Kathy: Imagine you didn’t … You have two options when you’re tempted. You can give in to the anxiety and have this heavy burden of being anxious, and having that weigh you down in everything you do, or you can give it into God’s hands and you can have that … then life becomes light!

Helen: That’s right. It becomes new and very good.

Milenko: Very good. The thing is that faith is the evidence of things not seen. So, you don’t actually see the end result yet, but we have to do with a living God, and that’s the evidence. The evidence is that we have God. And despite the outward circumstances being difficult – there’s no getting around it, we do have difficult circumstances – but there we can have this rest in our spirit, this deep, inner rest, and there is nothing to compare to it.

Helen: There isn’t. And the thing is, if I myself have been through a very difficult time and God has helped me and I’ve learned to cast my cares upon Him, then I also have a word of comfort to give to somebody else, because everybody experiences difficulties. I myself have been helped and comforted by other people that have told me, “Well this and this happened but I trusted God and He took care of me.” That’s very powerful.

Milenko: That’s really powerful. I mean, we can be a witness, an ambassador. You know, to bring across this and really help people. And as you say, I’ve been helped too, many times, by people with faith who have spoken faith into my heart, who have really shown the way, and in my situations, I’ve often thought like that, thought of words that have been said to me, thought of this song. Now I’m standing here, now I’m living, now I’m alive, now I can do something, and now I can turn to God, and there I find answers. I find practical answers and I also find, above all, answers for how I can be saved in my inner man. And that’s, I think, the treasure above all treasures.

Helen: Yes, you’re right. That’s my great desire to continue with that.

Kathy: So, you say, Helen, that you feel like God kind of gave this song to you as a gift, right?

Helen: Yes, I do.

Kathy: And I feel like He’s actually given it to all of us as a gift, and He used you to do it, but it’s been a gift, and I know many people who have received help from this song, so …

Helen: God is very merciful. I don’t really feel like it’s my song. I feel like it’s something that God just gave me to help me in my time of need.

Milenko: And you shared it, and that’s the important thing. We have to go out and share what God gives us, right? It’s something God has given us, so it is something that can help people. So, I think if we’re all bold in doing that, sharing our faith and sharing our experiences with God, I think that will be a real help for many people, as we have been helped. So, thank you for sharing.

Helen: Yeah, thank God for it.

Kathy: And thank you for joining us today.

Helen: Thank you very much, it was a great joy to be able to talk about these things.

Kathy: It’s been a very encouraging conversation for me, in all the prep work and getting ready … It’s been very, very encouraging, so thanks very much joining.

Milenko: Yes. I listened to this song many times today.

Kathy: We’ll put a link for this song in today’s episode description so you can listen to it again, and we’ve got a lot of other songs on our YouTube channel as well, so you can listen to those too there, and don’t forget to hit “Subscribe.” We have a lot of other content and there’s always new stuff, so check it out.

Just today, O help me, Lord, to live,
Trusting in Thy perfect love and wisdom;
For each day, sufficient is Thy grace;
Every moment’s planned for my salvation.

Just today! Just today!
Not one thought about tomorrow,
Trusting in Thy guidance and Thy grace –
Blessed freedom from all care and sorrow.

Satan tries to rob me of my peace,
Weigh me down with thoughts about tomorrow.
But his efforts all will be in vain,
For my God in living faith I follow.

Just today! Just today!
Not one thought about tomorrow,
Trusting in Thy guidance and Thy grace –
Blessed freedom from all care and sorrow.

Gone the past; the future – come what may!
It is Thine to plan, to guide, to care for.
But Thy love has given me “today;”
All my confidence I put in Thee, Lord.

Just today! Just today!
Not one thought about tomorrow,
Trusting in Thy guidance and Thy grace –
Blessed freedom from all care and sorrow.

“Just today” by Helen Simons, from the BCC songbook Ways of the Lord #197
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.