When younger, most people don’t give much thought to time. It seems to be unlimited, and we don’t have a concern about running out of it. Eventually we cross a line in time when our mortality confronts us. We realize we have less time in front of us than behind us. Some call this mid-life crisis. I call it the existential crisis. It is a time to examine the meaning of our life in light of this scarce and valuable commodity we call time. Take time today to reflect with me on your time, so you can use what you have left more wisely.
The brevity of life
The great secret of life discovered after living a lot of it is how fast life goes. Yet, young life seems to stand still at times. Remember Christmas eve, the longest night of the year when you were a kid. How about waiting to turn sixteen so you could get your driver’s license. Then one day you noticed time began to speed up. At first it wasn’t too bad, but eventually you wanted it to slow down and it wouldn’t. By the time your mortal awareness hit you it actually started to go faster. The sand started flowing through the hourglass taking your life with it no matter how you tried to slow it down.
The Bible teaches us about both the brevity and uncertainty of life:
“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” (Psalm 39:5).
“The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; they are soon gone and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).
“… yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, If the Lord wills, we will do this or that” (James 4:14).
Time is our most precious commodity; once spent it is gone forever. The sooner we start to value it the better off we will be. We will no longer waste or “kill time.” Once I understand this truth, how do I maximize time?
Teach us to number our days
The creator of time is God. He made it as a structure for us to live in for a while. There is something beyond time which is called eternity. Eternity is when time will cease. Eternity is where we live our real life forever. Time is where we prepare for eternity. Time is a current reality, something we can experience. Eternity for now is a faith concept, but one day it too will be a current reality. To maximize our use of time now we must see it from an eternal perspective. This requires us to look through the eye of faith. God designed everything in creation with purpose including us.
So we must make the same request of God the psalmist did in Psalm 90:12: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
He was asking God to teach him how to allot or spend his time wisely. God, being the designer of life, certainly knows how to make it work to achieve our full potential. If we are teachable and humble, God will show us where and where not to spend our time. Everyone is equal when it comes to time. We have 24 hours in a day. We don’t know how many total days we have; only God knows that.
However, like money, some people spend their time much more wisely than others – you can be one of those people. Just do two things to be one of these wiser people. The first thing is to make spending time with God in his word each day a top priority. He will then show you how to best use the rest of your time. The second thing is to take time to reflect upon how you use time. In doing so you will eliminate many regrets in your later life.
He has set eternity in our hearts
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart.”
The writer of this book is asking about the meaning of life. He keeps saying life is vanity, empty, meaningless. It is just a series of endless repetitive cycles with nothing new under the sun. What is the point of all we do for we are just going to die and leave everything behind for someone else? We come with nothing and go out the same. Death is the great equalizer. On a human level, this is true and pretty depressing.
However, God has set eternity in our hearts. Instinctively we know there is something beyond this life. To discover what that is, we must know God. Preferably, we should come to know him in the days of our youth (Ecclesiastes 12:1). This way we can discover our purpose early in life and live with greater significance. This is what we are designed for. In this way, we live a life of eternal consequence. We leave a spiritual legacy rather than a life of empty regrets.
Dr. John Hawkins, Sr. runs Gateway Counseling Center in Boynton Beach along with his son John Jr. He can be reached by visiting gatewaycounseling.com.