“Time, the subtle thief of youth”

Title from Sonett VII, John Milton

One of the consequences of the arrival of a new year is the inevitable sense of loss over the passing of the old year. For some, this can lead to feelings of regret or even remorse over what might have been.

Many take this time to reflect on goals established at the beginning of the previous year. Some focus exclusively on what they did not accomplish and then experience disappointment over what could have been.

The struggle is with the passing of time, something we all experience, and we should be sensitive to this reality. But we must approach this subject with the proper perspective.

The Bible has some wisdom to offer on this matter.

“Lord, let me know my end,
    and what is the measure of my days;
    let me know how fleeting my life is!
Behold, thou hast made my days a few handbreadths,
    and my lifetime is as nothing in thy sight.
Surely every man stands as a mere breath! Selah

Psalm 39:4-5

A handbreath is the space equal to the breath of a hand (palm). Our earthly life is truly fleeting.

For those who have lost loved ones, especially someone who passes away prematurely, the brevity of human life becomes painfully obvious.

The counting of the days, weeks, months and years is a constant reminder that our lives are passing. And for those beyond their fiftieth year, there seems to be a marked sense of the increasing speed of this process.

But we need not become discouraged over this fact, nor should we experience a sense of regret, let alone remorse, at the passing of another year.

There is a biblical strategy for eliminating this negativity over the passing of time. It relies on two specific thought patterns we must adopt to live with peace over the passing of time.

The first pattern requires we get our thinking straight about the meaning of time. For though we live in the temporal order and manage our lives by hours, days weeks and years, we are, none the less, actually living in eternity now.

We only experience the limitations and the disappointment of time constraints because we choose to judge our lives in the context of time running out. Or we measure the value of our time against a multitude of various accomplishments.

However, Jesus tells us something quite different about where we are in time.

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

John 5:24

We are eternal beings; scripture tells us this. We are living in eternity now; we have all eternity ahead of us.

If we have the proper perspective on this, we are not waiting for the clock to run out at the end of our life, rather, we are waiting for the transition to a fuller life, the one the Lord promised.

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

John 10:10b

But just what is this abundant life? And what exactly will we be doing for eternity?

After all, if we are in eternity now, we should want to be doing, to the best of our ability, what we will be doing for all eternity, since it is that activity which will presumably bring us abundant life.

These two questions lead to the second thought pattern we must adopt if we desire to overcome any discouragement about the passing of time.

To be more accurate, this second pattern is more about becoming who we are than it is about what we think. But in truth, our thoughts about ourselves and our circumstances largely determine what we ultimately become.

This principle is explained in a book by British philosopher James Allen As a Man Thinketh. Allen’s thesis, which he derives from Proverbs 23:7, is described in these simple words. “Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

The central point of this principle is that, in the context of time, we are not so much concerned about what we do as we are about who we become.

So much of our life is spent planning and acting to either create, acquire or maintain a specific style of life that we have defined as desirable. This can include our occupation, our recreation, our relationships our possessions and certainly our family life.

But most of us spend relatively little time thinking about the person we most desire to become, the person we will be for all eternity. Afterall, there is only one thing about us that remains for all eternity, and that is the degree to which we, as human persons, are transformed into love. That is our purpose in life, and for eternity.

Love never ends…

1 Corinthians 13:8

We are living in eternity now and the principle activity in eternity, for all human persons, is to become love. Since this is true, we should consider what we are doing and thinking about how to advance in becoming what we will be for eternity.

Now the definition of love has been the principle subject of philosophers, theologians and poets for centuries. It is not easy to define. But its principle manifestation, the evidence of its perfection, is described in the following Scripture verse.

So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. 

1 John 4:16-18

How remarkable…the principle manifestation of the perfection of love is the absence of fear.

If we were perfected in love, we would not fear anything in this life, including death, and certainly not the mere passing of the years. This is what we read above from John 5:24, Jesus tells us we have passed from death to life.

Perfection in love would drive out all our fears, and we would experience the abundant life Jesus spoke about.

But if we happen to be among the majority of souls who are not yet perfected in love, how might we know whether we are on the right path?

There are landmarks along this earthly journey, and they can serve as the measures of the value of our days from Psalm 39 above. We can use these measures to determine if we have spent the previous year making progress in eternity. They do not attempt to describe love, and they are not a series of goals which lead to accomplishments in this life.

Instead, they help us identify what must be removed from our lives to make room for love.

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

If we want to experience a sense of rejoicing over the passing of the years, let us reflect on these words, and let us allow them to transform us into who we will be for all eternity.

God Bless

Article Copyright © Deacon Mark Danis

Image credit: Photo by Gianluca Carenza on Unsplash

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