When Your Life Feels Wasted
Photos courtesy of Unsplash.
My mom has this funny prayer she prays whenever she comes for one of her always-too-short visits: “God, please make this visit feel like a long time.” At first I laughed—my delightful mom has the most faithful prayer life, and she prays about everything—but then I was like, “Oh, why not?”—and I started borrowing her prayer.
But you know what I’ve found? There’s something to Mom’s crazy prayer. Whenever we pray those words, time somehow moves a bit slower. Her visit, however short, feels long enough. Even if we only have hours together—a layover between flights—every minute feels fulfilling. Meaningful. Rich. When she leaves we may cry, but still we feel satisfied, knowing we made the most of what time we had. In the mysterious ways of God, he helps us stop and savor and be fully present in our fleeting, priceless moments together.
Sometimes we want time to slow down . . . but when we’re waiting, we want it to speed up and slow down at the same time. We want the wait to be over now, with no more time lost. We feel this pressure most acutely when we’re in the middle of one of those life-altering waits: The wait for a husband. For a baby. For a healing. Tick, tick goes the clock; flip, flip goes the calendar page—and you’re still stuck.
You feel your twenties passing you by, and you’re still single…
You’re well into your thirties, and you fear your biological clock will expire before you get to have a family…
Your forties are flying, and you’re still sick or depressed—not quite yourself—unable to fully live the life you have…
Your fifties are coming to a close, but still your adult child wanders . . .
And if you’re like me—always watching the clock, painfully conscious of life’s brevity—you can start to get paranoid: My life is wasting away. I’ll never get back this time. These are lost years.
But guess what? God is more powerful than time. Listen to this beautiful prayer:
“Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.”
Psalm 90:14–16 (emphasis added)
Do you get what the writer is saying here? He’s asking God to redeem lost time. To make up for lost years—to make Israel glad for as many days, as many years, as they have suffered.
Who wrote this prayer? Moses—Moses who spent forty years wandering in the desert, waiting for the Promised Land. Moses understood the pain of lost life and wasted years better than anyone. And yet he saw that God could still redeem that time, those desert years. In Moses’ eyes, it wasn’t too late. All was not lost. He knew the power of God—God who rained plagues and parted seas, God who appeared in cloud by day and fire by night, God who dwelled on the holy mountain. God could transcend time. God could make up lost years. God could make His people glad, so glad they couldn’t help but sing, for as many years as they had suffered.
We see God do this often in the Bible, showering suffering people with later-life blessings: Joseph. Naomi. Job.
I have seen God do this in my own life more times than I can count. After a tumultuous time in our church life, God provided a way for me and my husband to live in the same town as both our parents—we had never believed it possible, but we got to share eight happy years with both our families. We felt as though God went out of his way to comfort us after a time of trial.
After two years and nine months of infertility, God gave us three babies in…wait for it…two years and ten months. I can hardly see my computer screen for the tears filling my eyes—tears of gratitude, wonder, awe. It’s been eleven years, but still the joy of this blessing staggers me. Even now I ask God, “Why us, when so many others are still waiting?” I can’t answer that question, but I celebrate his gift even as I pray for others still awaiting theirs.
If you’re stuck on pause, mourning a delay, borrow Moses’ prayer. Remind God of the pain you feel watching time pass you by, and ask him to redeem the lost days. Ask him to restore joy. To make you glad for as many days—as many years—as you have suffered. I don’t know when or how God will answer your prayer, but I know he is listening. He is listening, he is concerned, and he is able.
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Elizabeth works from home as a writer, editor, diaper changer, baby snuggler, laundry slayer, not-so-gourmet chef, kid chauffeur, floor mopper, dog groomer, and tantrum tamer. She is always tired, but it's mostly the good kind.