“You are living the best days of your life.”
The comment caught my wife off guard. She was carting our two young boys toward the grocery-store checkout when an older woman ventured the prophecy. The woman spoke from experience, as a mother whose own cart had once held little ones. Perhaps she saw in my wife a past version of herself. Perhaps our boys brought back dear memories. Either way, she felt stirred to speak from hindsight: “You are living the best days of your life.”
My wife and I feel the truth of her words. Even amid the chaos of these little years, we often catch glimpses of what life will be like when our home no longer hears the patter of little feet or the laughter of little voices. We won’t be surprised if we look back on these years — these wild, exhausting, wonderful years — as the sweetest of our lives. We also won’t be surprised if they leave sooner than we’d like.
Moments like this one in the grocery store have left me wondering how to live through precious days you know will pass away. How, as Christians, should we watch children grow, tables empty, friendships fade, faces wrinkle?
Every Good Season Will End
In a world of change and decay, good gifts are fleeting by nature. Kids get big and hair turns gray. Honeymoons pass and anniversaries add up. Good ministries end and new beginnings quickly become old. These facts are so obvious, so unavoidable, that you’d think we’d be more ready for them.
But something in us — something in me — tries to deny the obvious and outrun the unavoidable. We, of course, have developed a dozen ways and more we try to dam the River Time. Some take pictures: many pictures, beautiful pictures, pictures to freeze and frame our happiness. Some try to choreograph moments meant to be enjoyed, not arranged. Some become relationally clingy. Some treat their children as if they were several years younger than they are. I sometimes find myself attempting to extend moments longer than they should go, like a man who keeps shouting “Encore!” after the band has gone home.
Such impulses often come from a kind of anticipated nostalgia, an awareness of present gifts we can’t bear to imagine as past, as gone. So we hold a net over our brightest days, trying to catch the butterfly of lasting joy in the fields of time. But the holes are always too big. No matter how much we try, we cannot seize good seasons from the vanity of our Ecclesiastes world, where “there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten” (Ecclesiastes 2:16).
No, we cannot stop the breezes that carry away our best moments. But we can learn to live more wisely in the wind.
The Hand That Holds Our Seasons
The brevity of beautiful seasons can seem like a kind of cruelty. And in some ways, of course, our losses do remind us of our fallen lot, that we dwell in a land where good things die. Our seasons, like our selves, go from dust to dust, the casualties of a sin-cursed world, subjected to futility (Romans 8:20). But for God’s people, Scripture would have us see our passing seasons differently. Ultimately, time does not take our best days from us; God does (Job 1:21). And therefore, wisdom comes from seeing the hand that holds our seasons.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven,” the Preacher tells us (Ecclesiastes 3:1). And God is the one who has made it so. “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). He gives seasons of joy and gladness, seasons for holding and laughing. But on this side of heaven, he gives none of these seasons forever. In his tender and merciful timing, the giver of “every good gift” takes back the treasures he lent, reminding us that they never truly belonged to us (James 1:17). Like beams from the sun, our seasons were not ours to own.
Those who receive their seasons from God’s hand, and remain ready to relinquish them at his bidding, find a counterintuitive kind of freedom. The more ready we are to part with good gifts, the less worried we are about losing them, and the more able we are to enjoy them. After imagining his best seasons long gone, the Preacher tells us, “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God” (Ecclesiastes 2:24).
Or as David Gibson writes, “Instead of using these gifts as a means to a greater end of securing ultimate gain in the world, we take the time to live inside the gifts themselves and see the hand of God in them” (Living Life Backward, 45). The wise see the hand of God in their best seasons; they also see their best seasons in the hand of God. “My times are in your hand,” the psalmist says (Psalm 31:15). And if our times are in God’s hand — his good, wise, kind hand — then we don’t need to try to keep them in ours.
Stamping Time with Eternity
But we can say more. And indeed, on this side of the cross and empty tomb, after Jesus has “brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10), we can’t help but say more. We may live in an Ecclesiastes world, but we are headed for a world without vanity, futility, or loss. And though we cannot keep our seasons from slipping away from us here, Scripture gives us hope that we can stamp them with eternity. “Only one life, ’twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last” — but what’s done for Christ will last.
The apostle Paul whispers of the wonder. “In the Lord,” he tells the Corinthians, “your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58) — not destined for vanity, not swept away by the wind. Or as he writes to the Ephesians, “Whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:8). Good works done for Christ, good seasons lived wholly to Christ, do not stay gone. Our hands cannot catch the passing moments, but Jesus’s can. Therefore, every moment given to him will become something more than passing.
Present gifts must die. But if they die in Christ, they will have a resurrection of sorts. The seasons will not return to us the same (as if we could parent toddlers again in glory), but “whatever good” we’ve done in these seasons will be remembered, rewarded, memorialized like a brick of gold on the streets of the New Jerusalem.
Gerrit Scott Dawson puts the matter poignantly in his book on Jesus’s ascension. If Jesus, the firstfruits from the dead, really reigns in deathless life, then for those united to him,
Nothing good in our humanity is lost. The memory of a body that works in health is more than recollection: it is now anticipation. The ache of true love once known but now sundered will be filled with glorious reunion. The feeling of the distant memory of Beauty, the ideal of Truth in a fallen world, the longing for Goodness that surfaces amidst the choking thorns of our wickedness, all these will find fulfillment when the firstfruits comes to harvest. (Jesus Ascended, 113)
Time may have driven our best days from us, but “God seeks what has been driven away” (Ecclesiastes 3:15). And he knows how to give back the best of our seasons — only now far better.
Aching for Heaven
Perhaps you find yourself in precious days you know will pass. You feel the sand slipping through your fingers. You see the moss beginning to grow over your happiest moments. A few days more, and you will sit beneath a leafless tree, the season past and gone. But then a few days after that, those in Christ will find themselves in a season that will never end.
Now, heaven’s eternal season will not be static. However much we discover of God, the shoreline of his perfections will ever bend over the horizon, always as “immeasurable” as before (Ephesians 2:7). But somehow, the stream of eternity will roll on without carrying away anything good, without ever reintroducing mourning, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4). We will enjoy change without parting, growth without loss, a season without sadness.
I have been wondering, then, if I might live more heavenly minded if I learned to read my aches rightly. For when I feel time running faster than I can follow, what I’m really yearning for is life with Jesus. And the question I should really ask is this: If even this fallen world holds moments as precious as these, what will eternity with him be like?
Every good season will come to an end, but only for now. So when the thought creeps in, “You are living some of the best days of your life,” we can respond, “Maybe of this life. But far better days will begin when this life ends.”