Numbering Our Days
A glimpse into the night I sought and found solace in the Psalms.
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My phone rang at 11:43 p.m. Sunday night. I glanced at the display. It was one of my best friend’s sister. My brain couldn’t quite register danger when I answered the phone. Even after she told me Shawn had a massive stroke and wasn’t expected to live through the night, I had a hard time processing the news.
Due to COVID protocols (we’ve had a recent spike in my city), the hospital is limiting the number of people per patient who can visit, so I wasn’t able to go to the hospital that night. Knowing I would go early the next morning, I tried to pray/sleep. You know what I mean. Pray for ten minutes, then sleep for ten minutes. But I couldn’t actually sleep. My heart hammered so quickly that I could feel it in the back of my head on my pillow.
Finally, at 2:50 a.m., I clicked on the flashlight feature of my phone and reached for my ESV Prayer Bible, planning to read Psalm 91 – an old standby when my heart is troubled. But I felt compelled to go back and start reading Psalm 90. Out loud.
Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
I don’t know why I read it out loud. I don’t typically read anything out loud. But speaking the truth of the scriptures had a calming effect. From everlasting to everlasting, he is God.
I continued reading.
You return man to dust
and say, “Return, O children of man!”
For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.
You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning:
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.
This is life. We flourish for a little while, then fade and wither. A couple of verses later reiterate that truth.
For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Shawn only got fifty-five years. As doctors expected, he didn’t survive the stroke. He passed away Monday afternoon.
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!
As I read this conclusion of Psalm 90 Sunday night, it was a reminder to number my own days. Bible commentator John Gill said this about the topic:
“That God would teach us to number our days, as if the present one was the last; for we cannot boast of tomorrow; we know not but this day, or night, our souls may be required of us: but the sense is, that God would teach us seriously to meditate on, and consider of, the shortness of our days; that they are but as a shadow, and there is no abiding; and the vanity and sinfulness of them, that so we may not desire to live here always; and the troubles and sorrows of them, which may serve to wean us from the world, and to observe how unprofitably we have spent them; which may put us upon redeeming time, and also to take notice of the goodness of God, that has followed us all our days, which may lead us to repentance, and engage us in the fear of God.”
There’s a lot to contemplate in that paragraph. But I’m left with seeking the Lord’s wisdom to establish the work of my hands for however many years, months, days or hours I have left.
I kept reading that night, working my way through Psalm 95. Then I finally found sleep, at least for four hours. But it was enough to get me through the next day when I said goodbye to Shawn. At least for now. But resurrection is coming.
Here are some tidbits you might find interesting this week:
I love this idea of putting a QR code on a person’s headstone so future generations can see videos or pictures of the person who is deceased.
“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess.” —Martin Luther
This has just been a brutal week for me after losing my friend Shawn. This song by Casting Crowns came on the radio and I wept as I listened to it.
Check out this slow-motion art.
“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” —Jesus (John 6:40 ESV)
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Hello, Lee. When I saw the title of your (well-written) devotion, I had a feeling you would be sharing the loss of your friend. I am so very sorry.