Jesus Christ

Growing in Christ - Meditation


"He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." Luke 24:45

Meditation #95, September 2015.


The Riddle of Time


There is a thought that occurs in the human mind from time to time. Some might call it a trite observation. Others might say it is a provocation to the most profound and meaningful thinking. It might be expressed in different ways, but it goes something like this: "my, how time flies." Babies grow, teenagers mutate, and young adults charge at the world like stampeding horses. Aging adults ponder the wounds of time-are these scars or badges of honor? Whatever it was, it happened quickly.


What problems and pressures revolve around time! Can I get to work on time? Can I get my work done on time? Can I pay my bills on time? When health concerns arise-how long will I be sick? How many years do I have left? How many months do I have left? When the end comes, some of us might still be thinking "how many seconds do I have left?" An excessive preoccupation with time or with aging is somehow just not right. It suggests an ungodly fear of the future.


Awareness of time is nevertheless a necessary, complex and meaningful aspect of our existence.  Above all else, a human being is conscious and should be conscious that his mortal life is finite. Events, tragic or glorious, unfold quickly and learning occurs. Emotions, yearnings, ambitions-these rage then subside. What does it all mean? What can we do in this tiny allotment of time to make our lives mean something?

T.S. Eliot, in his poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" ponders time:


And indeed there will be time,

For the yellow smoke that slides along the street

Rubbing its back upon the window panes

There will be time, there will be time

To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;

There will be time to murder and create,

And time for all the works and days of hands

That lift and drop a question on your plate;

Time for you and time for me,

And time yet for a hundred indecisions

And for a hundred visions and revisions,

Before the taking of a toast and tea.[1]   


These verses seem to contemplate that the lives of people will inevitably contain evil as well as good ("murder and create"); that after all the work of our lives we will still question the meaning of it all ("a question on your plate"); but that we should be at peace with the final act, or resting from it all ("the taking of a toast and tea").


We are of course reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:


For everything there is a season,

And a time for every matter under heaven;

A time to be born and a time to die. . .

A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

A time to kill and a time to heal. (ESV).


There is wisdom in the words of Solomon, but we may find that our awareness of time is still a worrisome thing. Christians want to do good works, of course, but we know we have limitations.  Should we savor time, striving for constant enjoyment of every minute of the privilege of being alive? We might, but it is hard to remember constantly to do this. The relentless requirements of daily living tend to thwart and numb our joy. That horrible illness-depression-might be connected, sometimes, to our awareness of the passing of time and a feeling of helplessness to do anything about it.


Jesus had a thing or two to say about time:


"And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?" (Matthew 6:27).


We must stop worrying. We must not be fearful. However imperfect our understanding of the events of our lives, we must not be anxious.


"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Matthew 6:34).


We should be at peace, although we know very well that God does not want us to be blind or indifferent to the troubles of life, either. It seems we are obliged to be courageous. For this, we have no better an example to follow than Jesus himself.


Perhaps we should stop there-or do we still have a question on our plate? The Psalmist articulates a question for us:


O Lord what is man that you regard him,

Or the son of man that you think of him?

Man is like a breath;

His days are like a passing shadow. (Psalm 144:3-4).


Our days are like a passing shadow-yes, this is precisely how we feel at times. If God does indeed care about us, why does he give us such short lives, lives that seem filled with moments of joy; moments of tragedy; moments of insight-- but then they are over?


One way to answer this is to consider Jesus and his miracles. Timothy Keller, in the course of making apologetic arguments, states:


We modern people think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order. The Bible tells us that God did not originally make the world to have disease, hunger and death in it. Jesus has come to redeem where it is wrong and heal the world where it is broken. His miracles are not just proofs that he has power but also wonderful foretastes of what he is going to do with that power. Jesus's miracles are not just a challenge to our minds, but a promise to our hearts, that the world we all want is coming. [2]


Of course we are troubled by time-we are neither in the Garden of Eden, nor are we in heaven, where we most certainly will not be obsessively looking at our watches and calendars. We are in the world after the fall of humankind, after the choice was made to live in a world of good and evil. Taking that into account, it is no wonder we are pushed and pressured and mystified by the passing of time. The good news is... the Good News, the gospel of Christ. Keller's excellent observations also amount to being a logical response to the question of why our lives are so short. Why shouldn't they be short, when God has something so much better in store for us? We are now standing at the wall of mystery, but somehow we will get back to the garden, to God's plan "A," to the place where God will wipe every tear. It will be the place where things make sense.


Once again-some things bear repetition-we can bring our anxiety-ridden hearts and minds to the Lord and be consoled by John 3:16:


For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Praise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

In faith and fellowship,

Patrick McKitrick

Outreach Canada Ministries - more...

[1] Verses 23-34 An Anthology of Verse (Toronto: Oxford) 1964. P.48.

[2] Timothy  Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Scepticism (New York: Riverhead) 2008. P.99.