A timer is a handy tool for mothers. When my children were young—in the days before smart-phone apps—I frequently used a white plastic egg timer to let them know when an activity was about to begin or end or how long it would last. We will leave for the pool in 10 minutes. You have 5 minutes left before it’s your sister’s turn. Read your book for 30 minutes. I also used a timer to motivate. If my children were taking too long to finish a project, I’d set a timer. If they required an incentive to do their chores, I’d set the timer. When I needed them to do something in a hurry, I’d sometimes use a timer to play beat-the-clock.
But timers are not only useful for children; they can benefit adults too. In fact, did you know that a timer has been set for our lives? We are on the clock. Holy Scripture tells us how long our lives here on earth are going to last. And it’s not long! David and Job compare the span of our lives to a breath (Ps. 144:4; Job 7:7). That’s only a second or two at most. At least Moses gave us a little more time when he likened the length of our days to grass that lasts from morning to evening (Ps. 90:5,6). Even still, a half-day is not very long!
Now, if our lifespan is comparable, to—at most—about twelve hours, this means that the seasons of our lives are only mere minutes in duration. Think about it. Whether you are a teenager, a single adult, a new bride, a mom with preschool children, an empty nester—whatever your season, you only have a few minutes left before this season ends. The timer is ticking.
I could almost hear it the other day when I read a list of the potential seasons of a woman’s life and realized that I had passed through almost all of them and had arrived at
the second-to-last season on the list. Truth is, the timer is always ticking; we just don’t always notice. Which is why David, Job, and Moses all try to rouse us—you don’t have long now! The reality of our limited lifespan sobers us up quick. It should motivate us to resist distraction, to refrain from disobedience, and to live purposefully and passionately, in an all-out sprint, for the finish line of our heavenly calling in Christ Jesus. We Christian women should always hear the tick, tick, tick.
“How well should those live who are to live so little! Is my earthly pilgrimage so brief? Then let me watch every step of it, so that in the little of time there may be much of grace,” said Charles Spurgeon.
How do we make much of grace in our little time? One of the simplest job descriptions for life is found in Ecclesiastes 3:12-13:
“I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.”
We are to be joyful and do good. What a simple, delightful assignment! In every brief season of life, whether working in the home or in the marketplace, whether cramming for tests or living out our retirement years, whether overwhelmed or aimless, our duty as Christian women is the same. Be joyful. Do good.
Often, we trudge (or dash!) through the fleeting seasons of our lives with an “I can’t wait until this is over so I can enjoy life” mentality. Once I finally get these toddlers out of diapers or get these teenagers off to college…then I will be joyful. If only I can get my business off the ground or finally make enough money to retire…then I can be joyful.
But we are to be joyful today. Our timer is ticking, remember? We don’t have much time to obey this command in whatever brief season of life we find ourselves. When we move from our current season into the next, we should be able to look back and say, if nothing else: by the grace of God, I was joyful.
Joy is found in God alone: “In your presence is fulness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11). So the way to be joyful in every season is to cultivate what Elisabeth Elliot calls “a habitual sense of the presence of God.” She tells mothers (and all of us) to: “Think that Almighty God, who created the stars and keeps the seasons revolving in perfect rhythm, is there in your kitchen, in your bathroom, in the laundry room, in the grocery store.” Think and your heart will be filled with wonder and joy. God is with you. Right now. Joy is where God is, and—through Christ—God is with us. How can we not be joyful?
All too easily, it seems.
You see, “a habitual sense of God’s presence” that leads to joy isn’t something we simply conjure up when we feel stressed or sad. It begins with consistent time in God’s Word and prayer and flows out into a life of daily communion with him. Joy is a “fruit of the Spirit”—a gift—that he gives to those who seek his presence continually (Gal. 5:22, Ps. 105:4). You may think that you don’t “have time” right now for consistent Bible reading and prayer, but in truth, you are throwing out the one thing that is necessary (Lk. 10:42). There is no other way to be joyful, and, being joyful is the most important responsibility you have today. How delightful is that?
Again, our assignment is simple. We are to do good in every season, and the good we are to do is the good that God has given us to do. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). The Creator of galaxies and ocean depths has designed and fashioned each of us individually, called us by name, redeemed us from our sins, and then personally prepared good works for each of us to do.
And Scripture tells us to get excited about doing good! We are to be devoted to good works (1 Tim. 5:10), zealous for good works (Tit. 2:14), have a reputation for good works (1 Tim. 5:10), adorn ourselves with good works (Tit. 2:9-10), and stir up one another for good works (Heb. 10:24).
If our lives feel complicated and stressful, it’s often because we’ve forgotten this simple command. So when you wake up in the morning, ask yourself: What is the good God has prepared for me to do today? (Hint: It’s usually right in front of you. Make your bed. Care for your children. Be gracious to your coworker. Joyfully receive unwelcome interruptions.) Then do it. Do it with all your heart.
Living Wide Awake
Be joyful and do good—it sounds so simple, so pleasant, so doable. Our problem is that our spiritual glasses get so fogged up with the momentary pleasures and problems of daily life, that we forget it’s passing so quickly. In fact, many of us live as if our present season is going to last forever.
John Calvin’s words bring us back with a jolt:
“Whence proceeds the great stupidity of men, who, bound fast to the present state of existence, proceed in the affairs of life as if they were to live two thousand years…. In short, men are so dull as to think that thirty years, or even a smaller number, are, as it were, an eternity; nor are they impressed with the brevity of their life so long as this world keeps possession of their thoughts…. How speedily our life vanishes away. The imagination that we shall have long life, resembles a profound sleep in which we are all benumbed.”
Let’s “wake up” to the fact that we have only a short time left in our present season. More importantly, let’s live as if we have just a few minutes remaining. With one eye on our heavenly timer, let’s be joyful and do good. Truly, as the wise teacher of Ecclesiastes says, there is nothing better.