“All is shadow here below! The world is a shadow; and it passes away! The creature is a shadow; and the loveliest and the fondest may be the first to die! Health is a shadow; fading, and in a moment gone! Wealth is a shadow; today upon the summit of affluence, tomorrow at its base, plunged into poverty and dependence! Human friendships and creature affections are but shadows… “Passing Away” is indelibly inscribed upon everything here below! Yet how slow are we to realize the solemn lesson: “What shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue!”” (Octavius Winslow, 1808-1878)
Sobering words. Solemn lessons. A kind of solemnity we don’t hear much of in our modern world today. Solemnity, though, which leads to wisdom. Solemnity which leads to the wisdom of seriousness about our days, and to the right view of our smallness in relation to God’s greatness. The kind of soberness that faces, head on, the realization of the shortness of life.
Moses said the same, thousands of years earlier. He also said that this kind of soberness leads to awe — the kind of awe which fortifies us, and ultimately leads to joy. Joy that stays ‘til the end of our life. Recorded for us in Psalm 90, Moses prays to God, and he begins with sobering truth about God’s power:
”Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God…a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night…”
Then, he points out the chasm of difference between us and God:
“The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty…they are soon gone, and we fly away.”
And because this is true, we need God’s intervention into our thinking about life:
“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom…”
Moses finishes: As we learn to number our days, not taking for granted even our very breath, increasingly aware of God’s great Otherness, and our desperate dependence, we grow in another way. We grow in happy satisfaction, glad, sure of His steadfast love. And when we’re sure of His steadfast love, we become people who rejoice:
“Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”
So, yes, “Passing Away!” is indelibly inscribed upon everything here below. God means for us to bow to, not to run from, that truth. In our bowing, He means for you and me to want to, more and more, stop our pursuit of fading shadows. We don’t just need a change of thinking about our shortness of life — we need a desire redistribution. We need a heart of wisdom.