However we define our labors, and whether or not they are recognized, we all know, if we are honest with ourselves, that sooner or later, everything we do is forgotten. And just like our labors, we too are forgotten and turned back to dust. Most of us would rather not start out the day with those realities. Not very motivating. And most of us don’t want to end the day with those thoughts either. Not very satisfying. I like to start out my day thinking that everything I say and do could matter. And it could count. And I like to reflect on my labors at the end of each day feeling like at least something mattered, something counted. And today I am reminded that is all vanity. Either no one noticed or somebody else probably already did what I did a lot better, or at least they soon will. And that too will be forgotten. In every age, it is the same. So what is the point of our existence and our efforts? How can we get ourselves motivated and how can we experience a sense of satisfaction with life?
The Psalmist tells us that God has always been with us in our human existence and its seemingly futile quest for meaning and significance. For God, our long human struggle all has meaning and our short individual lives all matter in the greater scheme of things. Even though we are individually like new grass that springs anew every morning, and wilts and fades at the end of the day, God is with us in some fulfilling purpose. The question is not whether or not our lives have meaning, but how do we know that? How are we to “take heart?” In answer to that question, as I reflect on the Psalm for today, I think the most important verses are “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.” I think that tells us we need to count what we do differently. We need to count what really matters and that is not usually what this world counts and rewards. But learning to see our labors differently will help us gain wisdom of heart.
This is a paradigm shift for most of us. The Psalmist says we need to get up in the morning with the hope that we will be filled with kindness, joy, and gladness in order for the work of hands to prosper. That means we shouldn’t start the day tired and crabby because we must face a long list of things we need to accomplish. That happens to all of us more than we would like to admit. And we can’t go to bed feeling inadequate if we didn’t get it all done. That also happens to all of us. Instead, we need to end the day giving thanks for God’s refuge throughout the day as we labored joyfully. Put that on your annual review…..
Realistically, we can’t change the way this world works that much. But we can change our hearts and probably our blood pressure, our relationships with others, and our lives in general if we find ways to focus more on joy and gladness in our work than on frustration and dissatisfaction. Despite our sense of powerlessness, the Gospel lesson for today reminds us that Jesus really did change the world….he got people talking….things happened that never happened before….and a lot of people were able to redefine their lives with a new purpose. What we do in learning more about and aligning ourselves with that purpose matters. It brings us prosperity. It brings a different kind of wealth and success. When we gain wisdom of heart, we will see it in our own lives and the lives of others. I pray today for that wisdom.