Have you ever had that sick feeling as a deadline approached? This is especially true if you’re behind on your project. You look at all you’ve got to do and the limited amount of time you have left to do it, and stress levels rise.
That’s not altogether a bad thing. It can be a reality check that gives you a good, hard kick in the pants. You realize you don’t have much time to waste and you’ve got to get to work.
Perhaps you’ve had a different feeling as you’ve thought about projects that you’re handling well. The due dates don’t get your stomach acid bubbling. You have no reason to be stressed. The deadlines merely just serve as calm motivation to keep up your current pace.
Now, which of those feelings do you get when you read these verses from Psalm 90?
“You return man to dust
and say, “Return, O children of man!”
“You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning:
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.”
“For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.”
“So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
I was reading that this morning, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Life is so short. I had that stomach churning feeling – the “I have a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it” sensation.
Much of that stress isn’t healthy. I need to remind myself of God’s providence in where I am now and how long I’ll be on earth. I need to remind myself of my justification and approval not based on my works.
But just like a project, this Psalm 90 realization made me very aware that I don’t have a moment to waste. I better get down to work.
Your Days Are Numbered
I began to consider the benefits of regularly reminding myself of my eventual death.
When we know that our days on this earth are numbered, each one suddenly has a precious value. We’re inspired to work harder, to act more boldly, and to not waste a single second on anything other than the most God-honoring actions we could possibly take.
A major cause of poor time stewardship is the mistaken belief that we’ll always have tomorrow. We can relax today, we can fool around today, we can be lazy today, we can procrastinate today, we can be selfish today, we can binge today, we can slack off today, we can neglect duties today – because there’s always tomorrow when we can get serious and catch up.
We forget that the grains of sand slipping through the hourglass are in limited supply. That is, until we come to our senses and wonder where the years have gone.
These innocent delays seem so wasteful and wicked when we view them in light of the brevity of life. Remembering our death will do much to keep us from living such wasted lives.
Morbid? Or Wise?
I’ve heard stories about medieval monks who used to keep human skulls in their rooms, with the Latin words “Summus Moribundus” (“We are destined to die”) etched into them.
That may seem morbid and strange. Perhaps you’re thinking you don’t want to think about death so much; you’d rather focus on pleasurable thoughts.
But yet the psalmist prays “Teach us to number our days” – teach us to constantly be aware of the fact that we’re going to die. Just like with deadlines, I know sometimes I need this good, hard kick in the pants.
Also, who says that thoughts on life’s brevity have to be depressing?
A well-managed project doesn’t give us deadline-related stress. We can reach the point where thinking often about our own deaths doesn’t give us indigestion but instead the calm assurance that we’re on the right path. We can rest in God’s wisdom, knowing that we’re faithfully running the course.
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