December 30, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Psalm 90:12
So teach us to count our days
that we may gain a wise heart.
As we get ready to say goodbye to 2022 and hello to 2023, Psalm 90 reminds us of the brevity of our lives. But this truth doesn’t have to be discouraging. Rather, when we “count our days” we are able to “gain a wise heart.” Thus, as the year changes from 2022 to 2023, and as we remember the shortness of our lives, we do not despair. Rather, when we count our days, we renew our trust in our timeless God and we ask for God’s favor so that we might make a difference through our work in the brief time allotted to us.
Today is the last day of 2022. As we get ready to say goodbye to this year, I find that Psalm 90 speaks to my heart. I expect it might speak to yours as well.
The context of Psalm 90 is not a pleasant one. It was written in a time when the people of God were “consumed by [God’s] anger” and “overwhelmed” by God’s wrath (Psalm 90:7) because of their “iniquities” and “secret sins” (90:8). Nevertheless, underneath the bad news of God’s righteous judgment lies a bedrock of confidence in God’s everlasting goodness. Rejoicing and prosperity will come again (90:14, 17).
Psalm 90 reframes the way we think about time and its passing. The psalm begins with good news: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations” (Psalm 90:1). Moreover, God exists outside of time, “before the mountains were brought forth” (90:2). Indeed, the psalm writer exults, “from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (90:2). Because God is timeless, God views the expanse of time differently than we see it: “For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past” (90:4).
Framed by God’s eternal existence, our time on earth is short: “The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10). The shortness of our life, especially if we live in difficult times, could be discouraging. But, in Psalm 90, it can lead to wisdom: “So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart” (90:12). The phrase “count our days” means “know that we have a limited number of days on earth.” Knowledge of the shortness of our life can help us become wise, according to this psalm.
How? What about our relatively few days helps us to become wise? To begin, the brevity of our life contrasts with the eternity of God’s life. When we count our days, we are reminded of our smallness compared with God’s unlimited greatness. This recognition leads us, on the one hand, to want to use well the time given to us. On the other hand, it also reminds us of our utter dependence on God. Thus, the final verse of Psalm 90 reads, “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands — O prosper the work of our hands!” (90:17). When God’s favor rests on us, when God prospers us, then and only then will our work be truly fruitful.
What a fascinating — and relevant — conclusion to this psalm! The psalmist’s reflections on God’s timelessness, the relative shortness of our lives, and our dependence on God’s grace lead to a prayer that God “prosper” our work. In this request, we hear an echo of the creation story in Genesis 1, in which God worked to create us in God’s own image so that we might work in this world as God’s agents and co-laborers. Though our time on earth is limited, our work still matters. It matters to God. And it matters to this world. What we do as workers will prosper as God’s grace is active in our lives.
Thus, as the year changes from 2022 to 2023, and as we remember the shortness of our lives, we do not despair. Rather, when we count our days, we renew our trust in our timeless God and we ask for God’s favor so that we might make a difference through our work in the brief time allotted to us.
How does the passing of the years affect you? How do you feel? What do you think?
Has your work made a difference in the last year? If so, in what way?
How is your work a result of God’s favor in your life?
How would you like God to prosper your work in 2023?
Ask the Lord to help you count your days so that you might gain wisdom.
Gracious God, first of all, I thank you for the past year. Yes, there were many challenges and disappointments in this year. But there were also many gifts, gifts of grace from your hand. So today I give you thanks.
I am reminded today of the passing of time, the shortness of life. Part of me wants to deny it, to fight against it. But I know that would be futile. Rather, dear Lord, I ask you to teach me to consider the brevity of life so that I might gain wisdom.
Help me, I pray, to live with wisdom in 2023. May I devote my life to what really matters. May I live for the praise of your glory in all I do. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: A Psalm for the End of the Year.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.