Satisfy us in the morning with Thy steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. . .Let Thy work be manifest to Thy servants, and Thy glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, yea, the work of our hands establish Thou it. Psalm 90: 14, 16-17
Many years ago, we had had a youth retreat at church, and I had used a rope for an illustration about sin and forgiveness. The next day, before I had the chance to put anything away, including the rope, someone came to see me whose life wasn’t going well. If fact, they said that their life was overall terrible. They we started talking about faith in God. They said that overall their faith in God was solid. Seeing the rope sitting on the floor, I grabbed it and laid it down the center aisle of the church. The person I was talking to was in the front of the church and now I was standing in the very back of the church, in the narthex. I saw a paperclip sitting on the candle stand in the narthex. I held the paperclip up in the air and asked the person in the front of the church if they could see what I was holding. I was a good fifty feet away from them. They said, they could not tell what I was holding. I told them it was a paperclip, and then I put the paperclip onto the rope. I walked to the front of the church and said to this person, “The rope on the floor represents eternity. The paperclip represents the span of our lives on earth. It is so small in the span of eternity, that it is like a speck we cannot see.”
If a person has the worst life that can be, but is a person of faith, that life is a speck of sadness on the rope of eternity. And if a person has a great life but has no faith, that great life is a bright spot on the rope of eternal condemnation.
Psalm 90 begins by acknowledging that “Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.” (Psalm 90:1) We are but one generation of many. And God is eternal. “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting Thou art God.” (v. 2) When we think of God’s majesty as being eternal, and that we have the prospect of sharing in that majesty forever, our lives here really are a nothing.
Our society does not talk about eternal life, and sadly, our church doesn’t talk about it enough either. Rather, we see setbacks as permanent, and recovery as being slow moving. A teenager who breaks his arm and has to sit out the baseball season for three months thinks three months is an eternity, when we know in reality that three months of a whole life is comparatively nothing. Losses become magnified when we hold them against the span of our life, or even against shorter spans, like a year.
This pandemic seems like it is dragging on “forever.” That’s because we are measuring it against expectations we have for this year. We feel like school has been out forever, because we have the expectation of being in school. We feel like church hasn’t been normal in forever, because we have a certain expectation for how it should be. And on and on we could list many more examples.
Most likely, this pandemic will not last “Forever” because forever means there is no end point and there will be an endpoint for this. Whether that is a month from now or a year from now, eventually this will end. However, even if it did last “forever”, if we “never” return to what we knew as normal, it still will not last forever. The coronavirus will not follow us into everlasting life. If I live another 40 years, even if I have to deal with the coronavirus until my dying day, at that point it will end.
If we are Christians, loving God, ministering to one another, and preparing for eternal life, if this year is “off,” if next year is “off”, in fact if the rest of our lives are “off” as far as being “normal” goes, we should not despair, because even the worst life is only a paper clip on a rope when compared to eternity. Rather than being consumed with “anger” or “overwhelmed,” (90:7), we should spend our lives getting “a heart of wisdom” of God (90:12) so that “we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” (90:14)
Thus, we shouldn’t get too up or too down, but seek to keep our course oriented towards God, so that we can anticipate and rejoice about the heavenly reward.
Lord, Thou has been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting Thou art God. Thou turnest man back to the dust, and sayest, “Turn back, O children of men!” For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. Thou dost sweep men away; they are like a dream, like grass which is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. For we are consumed by Thy anger; by Thy wrath we are overwhelmed. Thou hast set our iniquities before Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance. For all our days pass away under Thy wrath, our years come to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are threescore and ten, or even by reason of strength forescore; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of Thy anger, and Thy wrath according to the fear of Thee? So teach us to number our days hat we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on Thy servants! Satisfy us in the morning with Thy steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad as many days as Thou hast afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil. Let Thy work be manifest of Thy servants, and thy glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish Thou the work of our hands upon us, yea, the work of our hands establish Thou it. Psalm 90
Don’t be so concerned about the paperclip of today, that you forget about the rope of eternity!
The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! There you may find a database for past prayer team messages as well as books by Fr. Stavros and other information about his work and St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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