The New Year & Our Renewed Concept of Time
The Psalmist prayed, “Lord teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” (Psalm 90:12).
Could it be that the main reason why we never get around to doing everything we want or need to do in a day, a week, a month, a year or a life is not so much because “we don’t have enough time” (common response), but really because we don’t know how to best manage the time God has given us?” Perhaps. I will honestly count myself in that bunch, especially when I allow other “things” to distract me from what I should be doing. In our technology-driven world today, it seems we have more devices and applications to manage time, but somehow many feel they still don’t have enough “time” in any given day. Why is this?
Could it be that most of us would acknowledge the truth that “our days are indeed numbered,” but by the way we live we feel our time is more or less unlimited in scope?
“Where did the time go?” middle-aged and older adults often remark. Many of us feel that time passes more quickly as we age, a perception that can lead to regrets. According to psychologist and BBC columnist Claudia Hammond, “the sensation that time speeds up as you get older is one of the biggest mysteries of the experience of time.” Fortunately, our attempts to unravel this mystery have yielded some intriguing findings
There are good reasons why older people may feel that way. When it comes to how we perceive time, humans can estimate the length of an event from two very different perspectives: a prospective vantage, while an event is still occurring, or a retrospective one, after it has ended. In addition, our experience of time varies with whatever we are doing and how we feel about it. In fact, time does fly when we are having fun. Engaging in a novel exploit makes time appear to pass more quickly in the moment. But if we remember that activity later on, it will seem to have lasted longer than more mundane experiences.
The reason? Our brain encodes new experiences, but not familiar ones, into memory, and our retrospective judgment of time is based on how many new memories we create over a certain period. In other words, the more new memories we build on a weekend getaway, the longer that trip will seem in hindsight.
This phenomenon, which Hammond has dubbed the holiday paradox, seems to present one of the best clues as to why, in retrospect, time seems to pass more quickly the older we get. From childhood to early adulthood, we have many fresh experiences and learn countless new skills. As adults, though, our lives become more routine, and we experience fewer unfamiliar moments. As a result, our early years tend to be relatively over-represented in our autobiographical memory and, on reflection, seem to have lasted longer. Of course, this means we can also slow time down later in life. We can alter our perceptions by keeping our brain active, continually learning skills and ideas, and exploring new places.
So, what exactly does it mean to “teach us to number our days that we gain a heart of wisdom?” (Psalm 90:12)
First, it means to “make the most of each day.” Prioritize what is most important and be consistent in pursuing our goals. We have to set goals for without them we will drift. By prayer, godly counsel and Scripture study—decide what it is God wants you to do. If you are saved and belong to Christ, then He has given you a job or a task to do in His Kingdom. Make no mistake about it. It could be anything, but it will be something. It’s easy to get caught up “in our own agenda” and forget why God has put us here in the first place. God’s plan for our life includes allowing Him to guide and direct us toward His will for us (which is the best plan, incidentally). Evaluate your daily and weekly activities. Focus on what is most important and don’t allow distractions to detour your direction. We are “time managers” and the more we do it “right” the more joy we will experience, as well as a greater sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.
Second, it means to keenly realize “our lives are shorter than we realize.” For some people, it is drastically brief. Since none of us know exactly how much time we have left, we have to use what little, remaining time doing the things which matter, the goals which count for eternity and which are most important, not just for this life now. It may sound morbid to some, but our days are “literally” numbered Scripture teaches. That means in a certain year, of a certain month on a certain day it will be “game over” for each of us. No going back. No reincarnation. No second chances. It’s a done deal. I sincerely believe if each of us actually knew how many “days” we really have to live, it would profoundly shock us. “Count your days by making each of your days count.”
I like to do research on the internet. I enjoy learning new things. I also enjoy some time on social media and I do my best to reply to emails as quickly as possible. I selectively watch some television programs, good movies and inspiring music often. Because of the rise of technology today, if I am not careful and I don’t get my work done first, then all of these other things can easily trip me up and cause me to never get to the most important tasks of my day. Stay in charge of your schedule, don’t let lesser things rule your day. Your time is more precious than you might know.
A wise question to ask yourself is, “What do I want to see happen in my life before I die?” This transcends a mere “bucket list.” When you have noted the answer to that probing question, then ask yourself this one, “What small step could I take toward that life purpose today?” Stay focused one step at a time. Keep your eyes on the prize!
Thirdly, “numbering our days to gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12) means embracing the truth that our accomplishments on earth await their ultimate satisfaction only in eternity. Most Christians, who are spiritually healthy and growing in the Lord, deeply want to see their work reflect the glory of God and His permanence. This is good, however, if we feel dissatisfied with this life, and all it’s endless contradictions, frustrations and imperfections, then we must remember that our very passion to see God’s work and will done in our life, as well as the lives of others we serve, originates from the Lord Jesus Christ, not ourselves.
“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end” (Eccl. 3:11).
This means it is a good sign to have a certain sense of “dissatisfaction” with earthly pleasures and pursuits. Because we are created in “God’s image,” we have; a spiritual thirst and hunger for Him, eternal value and are intimately connected to the “cosmic, heavenly reality” that ultimate fulfillment will never happen to us in this life. Why? Because God has created us with a “built-in” restless yearning for the kind of flawlessly, perfect, eternal world which far transcends the temporary, fallen material world we live now. Can we experience high levels of joy and peace in Christ here? We should, it’s our birthright, after all. But, the truth is God has given us “only a glimpse of His glory” and the amazing perfection of His creation to come. This mere glimpse is only a passing glimpse. We can’t see the whole picture. No one can. We see in a “mirror dimly.” Anyone who claims to “see and understand all the details of the future” is blinded by their own self-deception. Therefore, we must trust God now and love Him enough to do what work He has already clearly revealed for us to do in His Word.
The more we see “time” from God’s eternal perspective, the more we will apply our entire lives in such a way that we will not only realize the brevity of life, but we will also seek to take advantage of each day as an opportunity to honor God. We will see our limited time on earth impacting our destiny in eternity, “what we do in life echos through eternity, ” (Russell Crowe in Gladiator).
“Father God, forgive us for the way we have managed our time. Sensitize our hearts and minds so that we will enthusiastically pursue Your plan for our lives with a view to eternity. May Your wisdom in Your Word become even more so our directional compass in the 2019 New Year ahead. For we ask and pray in the mighty name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”