If I could have predicted it I did. Owen was up around three. He got into bed with me and I was so exhausted I just kept praying he would fall back asleep. That didn’t happen. He was off to the blue…
Why only a few days, God? Why make earthly life so short? Maybe we entertain the misconception that happiness is proportional to length of life. But experience denies this. On the other hand, maybe we think having more years would improve our character and gradually change us into better people. Even if everyone was guaranteed hundreds of years, however, reality doesn’t suggest humans would be any different. Do we truly think it is a lack of time that keeps us from becoming better, wiser creatures?
These “few days” refer to every human life in general, including those who live past a hundred. What, then, about those who live only a fraction of a century? A mere twenty years? Ten? Five? Those who die in infancy or while still in the womb? Looked at from the perspective of God, every lifespan is only “a few days.” It is like how we see the stars — we know that some stars are thousands of miles closer than others, and yet they appear to all shine with similar brightness.
Could not the Creator have created beings that evolve from human to spiritual being (or angel) in the heavenly realm? Why go through the tribulations of earthly life? All we have are a few days; do they even matter? The truth confronts us with disconcerting soberness: they not only matter, they define our eternal destiny. Indeed, the impulse behind every Christian work done in truth and love — the heartbeat in every starry-eyed, faithful, love-filled bond servant of Christ — is that an eternity to come will redeem the days of brevity and pain. A life beyond their earthly imagination will right the wrongs suffered and give meaning to the works done in faith. Beyond this, our days matter because in them mankind is faced with the choice to respond to the knowledge of God made known to them, or to suppress the truth and follow their own hearts. One does not have the luxury of several centuries to think about it before coming to a conclusion — after he has gotten all he wants out of life first.
Perhaps this very fever — the search for meaning in light of the few days we have on earth — was burning in Solomon as he penned Ecclesiastes. Throughout the book he both mourns the futility of those days and discovers a sort of realistic contentment in them.
But what can we learn from the skeletal phrase itself? A few days. That is all we are given. Not much time at all. We are only a breath, a vapor gone after an instant. Soon to be forgotten. We will dissolve into history as the world hastens on without so much as a cough.
We come again to a fork in the road that faith seems to always present. Do we trust in a Sovereign, righteous, and loving God who knows not only our lifespan but possesses intimate knowledge of our very being? If so, our few days will be spent fruitfully — doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God. Our focus will remain fixed as we seek peace with humanity and endure suffering with hopefulness. Or, will we panic at the shortness of life and fall into what Solomon calls “grasping for the wind”? Will we rack up riches and wealth and prestige and pleasure in order to create our own version of a meaningful life?
The fewness of our days demands that attention be paid to how they are lived.
[Originally published by the author in November 2016]
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