Numbering our days enables us to commit to those tasks that are long term and may not produce immediate fruit. Numbering our days frees us to take appropriate self-care, and to take care of our bodies, minds and spirits. It demands that we take adequate rest in order to be able to endure in service.
A couple of weeks ago, the Times had a review of a new book by Lucy Kellaway titled Re-educated: How I Changed My Job, My Home, My Husband and My Hair. I was especially struck by this quote:
The very worst advice I have ever heard is to live every day as if it is the last. It’s likely that the decisions you make would be horrible, and you would be stuck with them for a very long time.
Whilst the uncertainty of life means that we cannot know whether this day will be our last, this is a distorted and unliveable philosophy. It injects a false urgency into life, and if taken literally, would ensure we only ever take the shortest term view. Despite this, it is all too easy for Christians to adopt just such a perspective. Preachers often use rhetoric of this type to motivate believers to urgency. It can be highly manipulative. Such false urgency is often enshrined in eschatological teaching, which assumes that the return of Jesus, or the rapture, could occur at any moment.
There may well be times when we do know that our days are short, for example if we have a terminal illness or are in advanced old age. This should give a right sense of urgency to our decisions and actions. But rather than living permanently with a false sense of urgency, the Bible encourages us to be wise by numbering our days.
I read Ps 90 this morning, where Moses asks God’s people to teach his people this wise perspective. He reflects that the usual human lifespan was seventy or eighty years, so we should view our lives from this normal perspective. The burden of his prayer is that God might relent from his wrath against his people so that they do not live out their lives in trouble and sorrow, but rather in the gladness and joy or forgiveness. This prayer has, of course, been answered by the Lord Jesus, who has removed God’s wrath so that we are no longer under condemnation.