Forty is just over a week away. I don’t want to be obsessed over my age or a number, but I do tend to evaluate my life when my birthday rolls around. What have I accomplished? I look at my life, which statistically speaking is more than half over, and I think of the failures, disappointments, and missed opportunities. I feel the weight of loneliness and barrenness. Moses wrote in Psalms 90:12, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” All week that verse has been rattling around in my brain. As I considered my life, I realized that my heart was full of self-pity, which cannot be any “wisdom” that is from God (James 3:17). I realized that I could not be looking at my life from a Biblical perspective, so I searched the Scriptures.
What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy. . .
Ecclesiastes 2:22, 24-26a
In Psalms 39:4, David asked, “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am.” Throughout God’s Word there are references to the brevity of our earthly life. It is ‘a breath,’ ‘a mist,’ and ‘a flower of the field.’ If we aren’t careful, reflecting on this will lead to the kind of earthly wisdom that says, “Carpe diem!” and “Do whatever makes you feel good.” Continuing in Psalms 39, we see that David was instead humbled by the knowledge that his life and hope depended upon God’s mercy.
In seeking to gain more godly wisdom on this point, it occurred to me that Solomon was a ‘number-your-days’ kind of man. So, I read Ecclesiastes. The entire book is a thesis on the temporal nature of our lives and the futility of earthly accomplishment. I am certain that Solomon would be the first to point out to me the worthlessness of evaluating my life based on worldly success. In reflecting on the ‘vanity’ of life, Solomon’s wisdom points us forward to a judgment day when we will be held to account for our actions. This is the reason he gives for man to “fear God and keep his commandments” during “the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow.” (Eccl. 12:13 & 6:12)
While Solomon’s perspective on toil and judgment is sobering, the author of Hebrews encourages that we can look forward to “enter[ing] God’s rest.” This earthly life is our Egypt. We toil as slaves, but we look forward to rest in a promised land. Hebrews 3:1-6 is our trust. Here we are reminded that Jesus Christ is greater than Moses, so our hope in Him is greater. Hebrews 4:8-10 promises that rest awaits those who have faith: “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.”
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians and told them, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” he also wrote, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” I can’t help but think that for Paul, the numbering of days was not only acknowledging that life on earth was short, but understanding that something far better awaited him. I think a problem for Christians today, is that we don’t really believe that what is to come is better. I know that I struggle with this. Here and now is a tangible reality, while question marks surround our knowledge of eternity. To make matters worse, we have a false conception of heaven that has been perpetuated by our culture. During my recent road trip to Montana, I listened to audio of Beth Moore’s Bible study, To Live Is Christ. She pointed out our tendency to look at heaven as a shadow of our life on earth, when it is the earthly life that is the shadow of “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” I spent that week in Montana looking at the awe-inspiring views around me, and thinking, Wow, this is just the shadow!
Perhaps it is too early for me to lean into the tape, but as I search the Scriptures, that is what I want to do. I am plodding through what I presume to be the middle of my race. I need to find endurance and spur myself on. I need to stop worrying about getting what I want from this life; even if I had everything that I think I want, it would not satisfy. And it is truly irrelevant (vanity!) because this life is just a shadow of what God has for me.
. . .let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. . .