Fear destroys hope

O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!  Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you.  Surely all humanity stands as a mere breath! Selah. Surely a man goes about as a shadow!  Surely for nothing, they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!” (Ps. 39:4-6).  The writer of this Psalm has had much difficulty in his life thus far.  He bridled his tongue, remaining silent even in the midst of all that he was going through, but he says that did not help because his “distress grew worse” (v.3).  Now he beseeches the Lord to allow him to know how long he will have to suffer on this earth before death brings an escape from all his hardships.

Most people have suffered enough that they may have been tempted to or did ask that question at least at one point in their lives.  Even though death is the greatest fear of man, there are times when it appears to offer respite enough to make us look forward to it.  The author also wants to understand his frailty in this regard, but it is important to note that he is not asking for the exact knowledge about his end, something we are never promised in the scriptures.  It is not for us to know that, as we are clearly told in Jam. 4:14, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”  Strangely, I suppose it is a comfort for us to know that our suffering will not continue forever. But I am sure that does not do much for the individual asking the question since it is usually asked in a state of despair.

What is important to know is not how long we will live but, as we see in the next verse, the understanding of the power of God.  It is He who made us.  Isa. 64:8 reads, “But now, O Lord, You are our Father.  We are the clay, and You are the potter.”  It stands to reason that our creator, the one who breathed life into us, who created us to dwell on this earth for a few “handbreadths” of time, is in control of all things.  It also means that He can deliver on His promise of a glorious afterlife free from the struggles and pains of this one. The writer can find solace in the fact that the Almighty has him in mind and will never leave or forsake him even during the darkest times, and so should we.

Our focus should not be on this life but on the one to come.  The writer warns of placing all of one’s efforts on things of this earth when he says, “man heaps us wealth and does not know who will gather!”  If we concentrate on the things of this life, it is easy to lose focus on the things of the next.  It is then that our trials become overwhelming because we lose sight of the power of God to help us overcome life’s difficulties.  Focus on God, and there is hope irrespective of our present circumstances.  Lose sight of God, and our fear controls the present, which can be devastating for our psyche because it destroys hope.  So, focus on God and the future and ask Him for patience and perseverance to cope with and overcome your present difficulties.

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