It is very hard for me to see beyond what is in front of me. I have never had the type A personality that strives to meet goals that are set well into the future. I’m not saying I don’t do this, I’m just saying that I am not naturally very good at it. I have a task manager app on my phone that helps me, but I get no satisfaction whatsoever by checking a box off of my to-do list. I tend to work best when I spontaneously feel inspired to do something. This may not be you at all. You may be super organized and have a methodical plan to reach your future goal. Checking a box may be the peak of your enjoyment. Regardless of what personality type any of us have, one thing that I am confident that none of us do enough is look ahead to what is coming. I’m not talking about making plans to try to control what is coming, I am talking about what is actually, decisively coming. The end of our lives.
In the Psalms, David prays,
“O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! (Selah)
Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!”
The king saw a need to better understand just how finite our time here is. We need this sobering from God because it is not in our nature to think about such things often, especially when we are young and healthy. David’s prayer here, it seems to me, is one that is in accord with the will of God. God answers this prayer for all of his true children in one way or another. Sometimes it is through health problems in those who are supposed to be young and strong. Sometimes it is through old age. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have been told by those older than me to appreciate what I have because it goes away with a few blinks. Sometimes it is through sudden tragedy that hits us like a truck out of nowhere. God, by his grace, will remind his children how fleeting their lives are in this current age. We cannot control the length of our days, and we cannot take anything with us when we die. If our hope is in this life only, then we have no hope at all.
Enter the gospel. The gospel helps us see that God uses the means mentioned above (old age, loss of health, tragedy, and loss of property) to lavish us with his grace. Our inability to see with clarity what is coming is a blindness that we cannot afford to live with. And our God is so gracious, that he will remove the scales from our eyes. He will make our temporal nature so obvious, that we can do nothing but turn to him for hope. Believing the gospel means living in light of its promises; and the Father is so gracious to us that he will not let us remain blind to his glorious promises that are not worth comparing to anything that is here and now. Are you afflicted with old age my brother? It is a kindness from the Father reminding you that this life is not about this life. Are you facing tragedy dear sister? It is grace from the LORD who is reminding you that he is your eternal comfort who one day will remove your tears forever. Have you, family of God, been robbed of earthly treasures or lost property that cannot be recovered? It is the mercy of God that is reminding you that he, alone, is your treasure.
Without him there would be nothing to look forward to. If you do not claim to be his child, then it makes sense for you to refrain from looking past the short vapor that is this life. But if you are his, then his grace destroys your idols for his glory and your good. It is an odd thing to think of the grace and mercy of God as tools of destruction. But they certainly are. They destroy everything that keeps his children from seeing the great hope they have in him. He cuts deep into our hearts, by his grace, and reveals the thirst of our affections by destroying the false gods that have kept us from drinking for so long. He does this so that we will turn to him in our thirst for genuine hope and drink of the living water he provides that will satisfy us in this life and beyond. When he ruins our lives according to our plans, he is near us to give comfort in what lies ahead that we were blind to see before. Thanks be to God for his destructive grace.