The realization of trust in the brevity of this life

Having a realistic trust in God can help our long-term human anxiety.

Psalm 39:4-7, 12 – “Yahweh, let me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight. Surely every man stands as a mere breath! Surely man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing are they in turmoil; man heaps up, and knows not who will gather! And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. … Hear my prayer, O Yahweh, and give ear to my cry; hold not your peace at my tears! For I am your passing guest, a sojourner, like all my fathers.”

Whether we care to admit it or not, all of life is about expectations. We expect that we will live through the day, that life will go on as usual tomorrow, and that we will reach a ripe old age. However, those expectations have a way of being unmet from time to time. Sometimes, people go about their day with the typical expectation, only to meet with a tragic accident of some sort. And while the sun continues to come up each day, the environment in which we live may change drastically in an instant, like an earthquake, tsunami, volcano, or violent storm. We don’t always reach that ripe old age that we expect to live to.

In fact, if one pauses at any length to consider these types of things, it’s a wonder that more people don’t place their trust in God. Even the godly man represented in the psalm above recognizes that life is fleeting, his days are as “handbreadths,” and that life is just as brief as a “breath” or as incorporeal as a “shadow.” The godly person, even in the consideration of these realities, still recognizes that God is worthy of trust, perhaps even more so. Because so much of this existence is beyond our control, it really becomes a rational proposition to consider the reality and provision of God throughout our lives.

After jotting down some of my own ideas, I briefly reviewed a group of online articles providing a whole list of things we have no control over in this life:

  • where or when we are born
  • who our parents are
  • financial status of family we are born into
  • our looks, height, skin color
  • the weather (or natural events)
  • the passing of time (inclusive of the future or the past)
  • other people’s opinions
  • some diseases
  • when/how other people die
  • when/how we die

One list even humorously included cats as something we cannot control. As a cat owner, I can attest to this.

Yet in spite of all of these things beyond our control, we still go through life believing we are the masters of our own destiny, that we can do whatever we want whenever we want to do it. That’s not always possible, as some of the items above will attest to. And when we encounter those types of things we may not be able to do when we have the attitude that we should be able to, it can create bitterness, personal strife, and envy.

Yet, if we choose instead to trust God for the things we have no control over, we can learn to adopt the attitude of the psalmist: to consider ourselves as “passing guests” in God’s creation, “sojourners” like all of the previous generations who have gone on before us. Understanding that God is ultimately in control allows us to trust him for the things that we realize are beyond our control, and for him to provide what we need at the right time he sees fit.

Romans 8:28 – We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

This doesn’t mean that everything that happens to us as believers is good, but that in the grand scheme of this brief life, as long as we continue to trust him, God has our best interest at heart no matter what comes our way. Sometimes he even creates unforeseen opportunities or provides us unprecedented skills to meet whatever immediate need may arise. Realizing these aspects of God’s involvement in his creation should free us up from unnecessary worry over things we have no control over to be more productive in what we can accomplish for the kingdom of God when we trust fully in him.

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