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Counting Our Days


Psalm 90:12 "So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart."

I used to read this verse as a call to productivity. If you read it in context, you see that the psalmist is lamenting that we only live 70 or 80 years. It seemed that he was saying that our lives are short, so get cracking, there's work to be done.

Closer reading, though, shows us that that's not the case. The beginning of the psalm is a lament of the difficulty of life.

"Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures;yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away." (verse 10).

The psalmist equates our problems with God's anger and indignation, a common theme in the Psalms, indeed in the entire Old Testament.

Yet, then he begs for God to show his unfailing love, ending with verse 17.

"May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands."

There is a theology of time in here. "Teach us to count our days" is not a call to just any productivity, but the work that God calls us to. There's plenty of work to be done, but what is the work that God wants us to do.

Remember Micah 6:8 "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." This sentiment is expressed in the New Testament as well.

And the end of the psalm is a cry for God to show his love for us by giving us his work to do. Again, we want to do God's work, not just any work. And God's love is shown in this psalm not by giving us stuff, but by giving us work and, presumably, purpose.

God's work for each person is different. For one person, it might be art, for another it might be health care. But, whatever it is, it is work given by God. It will be productive. It will probably be difficult. It may not be glamorous. It will use your gifts. And it is something that no one else can do.

I have a hard time with this psalm right now. When I read that I should be "counting my days", I think of the days that I spend in pain or sleeping because of pain. How am I going to gain a heart of wisdom? And what kind of work am I supposed to do when I have chronic pain.

I don't have answers to this. All I have is a God who is far wiser than I. And I will continue to get out of bed in the morning and do the work set before me. Which today means laundry. I hope you can do the same.

Thoughts?

Catherine