We dream, we plan, we think, we strategize. We try to manoeuvre the pieces of our lives in the hope that one day…one day…everything will be just right. But somehow things never turn out quite as we imagined. In fact, they often turn out very differently. Just as we think we’re getting used to things, they change. Our lives can be as slippery as a bar of soap in the bath-tub: almost impossible to get a grip on…
And it’s not just our personal lives which are unpredictable, but the world we live in changes every day. Nations change, cultures change, cities change, people change, and what was once familiar, what we once thought was the way of things for the rest of our lives, is now gone, or radically altered.
When you’ve been around for a few decades as I have, you look back on your life so far and on the land you once considered to be your safe, comfortable, familiar home, and you see all the twists and the turns in the events of your life and in the life of your civilization; you see the people you once felt would be close to you forever; the places you once knew intimately; the leaders you had some confidence in; the institutions and icons you’d built your world on…all gone, and replaced by others you may feel no attachment to.
I’m not saying I’m opposed to any kind of change, or to improvement or innovation: quite the contrary. I quickly get bored with status quo, with clichés and the same old way of doing things. Give me imagination any day. Neither am I one of those who resents modern technology: I’m tapping away on a laptop right now which gets used many times a day for all kinds of tasks, and I say thank God for it.
The best we can do is to make the most of our lives, and to enjoy what we are blessed with while we can.
But people come and go: that’s the hardest thing to deal with. And the people you would most wish to hang around often don’t, for one reason or another. And some changes in our world, let’s face it, just mess things up totally, and there’s usually no turning back. We have to face up to the fact that things will never be just how we want them to be…at least, not for long. We all need to have the ability to adapt. We all need to get into our heads that this world is temporal, our lives are temporal. We are, to borrow the name of one of the Doctors’ subjects of rescue, the “Ephemerals”, and while we want to think of our lives as unending and indestructible, they aren’t.
Here’s just one more of those subjects on which the Bible succinctly captures our condition. I don’t call it a “plight”, because the ultimate message of the Bible is supremely positive. After all, how could our future possibly be any better than having eternal life in an incorruptible body, with our Creator who loves us unceasingly?
I often think that if the Bible’s inspiration were solely human there would be far less consideration of the ugly side of man’s existence, such as the brevity of life. We’re brought to our senses not to depress us, but to align our minds with reality and with that of our Maker. In that vein, Bible writers speak on our behalf, uttering the things many of us are never willing to face up to:
Teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12 ESV)
What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes (James 4:14).
I’m convinced God understands and appreciates that we can’t naturally see the real end from the real beginning: we know only what we see in our own very tiny corner of time and space:
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:14)
There’s hope for us, because God is our savior, and he is eternal. He isn’t subject to change like we are:
The grass withers, the flower fades…Surely the people are grass…
but the word of our God will stand forever (Isaiah 40:7-8).
That’s why God was prepared to send His Son to deliver us:
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
The eternal God invites us to look beyond our limited view. We need to look ahead, not backwards. Anyway, not even nostalgia is what it used to be.
I think time is just a measurement of change. Without change, there would be no time, and vice-versa. You can’t go from A to B without time, and there can be no time without change-that’s the nature of our universe. So somehow, while we should look back with fondness on the past, and to learn from our mistakes, we must more importantly look to the future, which is never-ending.
It’s a mistake to get too attached to the physical while neglecting the spiritual:
…we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV).
We live in a fallen world where people and things let us down continually and we let them down. But there’s coming a time of restoration. How can a God who created such an amazing universe not want to restore it? And He’s promised that he will. In that future there will be no more tears, and no more struggle. The only change will be all positive, constructive, attractive: improvement and growth. I personally believe the universe is not only vast because our God is vast and uncontainable, but because he has plans for it, which we will be a part of, if we choose Him.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children (Revelation 21).