“All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”
“I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.”
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more
exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at things which are seen, but things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are
temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
As my eyes grow older, they slowly begin to degenerate. I’ve also noticed that it’s a lot harder for me to do some of the things I did with little to no effort when I was really young and could climb anything and run around all day. Something else that has come with age is an awareness of my limited mental capacity and the reality that my mind’s tendency to forget will eventually exceed its ability to learn.
My point is: I know that this life is fading. I’m reminded of it every single day. Yet I often live focused on what I know is transient. I catch myself constantly getting caught up over the dumbest issues or feeling like I have certain “needs” that have to be met in this life that will make it feel more significant or long lasting. I believe an age old lie: that I can find satisfaction in this world.
But when I read scripture, it transforms my mind. It cuts to the core of my being, slicing through every sinful cell and severing all of the rotting flesh that remains as a result of my fallen condition. The three passages written above are ones that have come to my mind over and over and over again since I began studying the Bible a decade ago. I’m sure a lot of people may not believe me when I say this, but I can confidently say that, at 15 or 16 years old, there wasn’t much in the world that appealed to me. Drinking, drugs, premarital sex, the typical high school scenes… they weren’t regularly points of temptation.
Notice that I didn’t say they were never points of temptation, but they frequently failed to make me believe they offered fulfillment. Granted, I also had plenty of peers to reference for their personal experiences with any or all of the above, so it definitely helped to be able to see how empty they were and to perceive that the same emptiness would await me if I indulged those desires. However, something I noticed early on was that what is written throughout scripture rings true even two millennia later… this world, with all its fleeting pleasures and fading figures, won’t last.
As time goes by, each year just serves to reaffirm the same.
I once heard a wise preacher tell his son (I literally heard this, it’s not some allusion to another passage of scripture):
“Don’t squander your life on this world.” Those words struck me in that moment and always prompt me to recall that it is possible to waste your entire life. It is possible to live 80, 90, maybe even 100 years, and to waste every single moment. It’s actually very simple to do this and many people have done so and will do so without ever realizing or believing that they did. I fear that very many Christians may also be doing this. I fear that I may be doing it as well. How do we waste our lives? We live for what doesn’t last.
I’m 26. Which is probably old to some but still “young” to most. Nonetheless, I feel very, very old. Not in the sense that I think I’m wise or knowledgeable. If anything, increasing age makes me feel more foolish and stupid.
No, I feel very, very old because I also feel very, very tired. Tired of watching a world that is full of hatred and violence and war. Tired of hearing people complain and argue and insult. Tired of feeling the weight of grief. Tired of witnessing the oppression of the weak. Tired of having to pray the same prayers to ask God to change my prideful heart when I remember that the problem with the world lies within me.
The problem with the world is that it is filled with rebellious creatures who have turned from their Creator to worship other gods. So often, I find myself exalting anything and everything above the only Person who I know is greater than all else. I know this. History speaks to this. The longer man exists, the more he only serves to prove the Word of God to be more true because he continues to do what Scripture says he will do. He continues to reject God. He continues to seek his own way. And he continues to die as a result of separating himself from God. I see the end of this pattern every day.
Hypothetically, I have a long time left to live. However, every day, I meet patients who are counting their days. I see in their eyes what they can’t say: they’re afraid to die, but they know they’re going to. They say the same thing to me all day long: “Don’t get old” (I literally hear that almost every day). But they say it knowing I’ll one day be exactly where they are and won’t be able to stop it. I know I’m going to die. I know I won’t always look so young that people constantly mistake me to be in high school or college.
I know this, but do I live as if my days are numbered? Do I live as though the days of others are numbered as well? I want to grasp the reality of eternity, but too often I forget because it seems so far away right now. It’s easy to push to the back burner when my body seems to still be in good health and feels like it will always stay strong. But I’ve been praying more lately to remember that, though each person’s body may be wasting away, their soul will live forever. I’ve been asking the Lord to let me see myself in the small, frail frame of each elderly person who struggles to walk or speak or even breathe on their own. I pray that, as my physical well being deteriorates day after day, my spiritual well being will only be strengthened all the more as it is prepared to enter its eternal state.
I am wary and weary of a waning world. I am saddened by the fleeting youth and fading vigor I constantly witness and experience. Our flesh is fainting. Our hearts are longing to be restored. And ultimately, our brief, earthly lives remind of us a greater and lasting reality. This world and this life are not forever, praise God. All who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus have the promise of the everlasting rest and renewal that await us in the age to come. But for now, we wait. We wrestle to remain hopeful in and faithful to the One who has given us reason to endure this light affliction on our way to an eternal glory.