Lord, I’ve wasted so much time in my life. Please forgive me.
This is a frequent and common prayer during my morning devotional hour. I consistently mourn the copious amounts of time that have slipped through my fingers. It seems like minutes are like water, slipping through cupped hands despite my best efforts to hold them. There never seem to be enough hours in the day to accomplish all that needs to be done.
However, how many more hours have I willingly thrown away?
How many hours have been lost on Facebook, YouTube, and eBay? How many times have I promised that “this is the last video,” before I get to work? How many hours would those “last videos” account for in wasted time after the minutes are added up? More importantly, how many sermons could I have written earlier, leaving time for meditation, prayer, and time with family? How many classes would not have required a frenetic rush at the end of the semester, resulting in shoddy work?
There is a frequent lament for the way that I have frittered away time.
Then, there is the attempt to rededicate myself. Maybe I need new time-management software? Perhaps I need new time management techniques! Aha! That’s the ticket. Have you heard of the Pomodoro Technique? It promises that you will get more done if you dedicate yourself to working for 25-minute intervals with 5 minutes of rest in between. No? Maybe I need to re-read Cal Newport’s Deep Work. Hmm. That didn’t catch either. You know what will work? Noise-canceling headphones. On and on it goes, until the weight of wasted time sits squarely on my shoulders, causing me to retreat into a cycle of mindless YouTube videos. Lord, I will deal with this tomorrow.
Tomorrow brings the temptress of comparison. She leads me toward disdain and despair.
How are there people 10 years younger than me who have surpassed me in productivity? They probably never spend time with their family. They probably neglect their devotional duties to have such productivity. Comparison tempts me to think uncharitably about my fellow Christians, and I readily give in.
What about my sin? How many years have I spent watching pornography, indulging the lusts of the flesh? How many wasted hours in front of a screen, warping my mind and shriveling my soul? Lord, have mercy on me.
There are moments throughout the day where the weight of lost time grips my soul. My chest tightens, and a recurring thought grips me: Lord, the swarming locusts have taken too much. I might as well continue to waste my life. Why not another YouTube video? Why not another online purchase? After all, I do need new shoes.
Christian, if you cannot identify with my plight, God bless you. I say that with no pretentiousness and complete sincerity. Maybe you are one of those Christians who can simultaneously balance school, ministry, and family and do all things well. I look forward to poking around your Amazon author’s page one day.
For the rest of us, how do we face tomorrow?
I’m reminded of Joel 2:25. This arresting verse reads, “I will restore to your the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.”
The Lord tells His people that their despair over the crops destroyed by the vermin are all directed by His hands. I sent them among you. Imagine an Israelite standing in a desolate field as the buzzing of the locusts fade away. Everything green is reduced to brown, and he has to start over. Indeed, this farmer has lost years. The devastation destroys this year’s crop and leaves lasting damage for the coming years.
Are you standing in front of your proverbial barren field, lamenting the destruction? Are you tempted to look in your neighbor’s field and think uncharitably about him?
The same God who promised to restore the years lost to the swarming locusts is the same God you serve today. In Joel, God was promising restoration for their economic benefit. If he cares about Israel’s despair over lost crops, how much more will He care for your despair over wasted hours? After all, a correct view of God’s sovereignty will be able to encompass the clause, I sent the destroyers among you.
Take heart. It matters not if the locusts took the form of social media addiction, the impulse to shop online every time you think of that pile of undone tasks on your desk, or a years-long losing battle with pornography, God is sovereign over these destroyers. He never causes you to sin, but when you willingly transgress His law and fritter your time away, He can still say, I sent the destroyers among you.
How can this be? We have reached the limits of our understanding, and we dare not question the potter. This is not a license to sin, but the freedom to trust the one who will restore us despite our sin.
My fellow Christian, press on to what lies ahead and forget what lies behind. Yes, you have wasted years on things that have no eternal value. However, our gracious God has given you another day and another chance to put your hand to the plow. Parent your children. Probe your spouse’s heart. Mend that broken friendship. Write that sermon. Learn Greek as the oldest student in the class. Do not despair because your righteousness is not in your productivity but hidden in Christ. Drill that truth deep into your heart and watch as He restores what the swarming locusts have eaten.