“O Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!
Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil.”
Psalm 39:4-6 ESV
I can’t be the only woman who has moments when she wakes up in the morning, immediately starts thinking about all the menial tasks and responsibilities she will have to face for the umpteenth time that day, and feels the urge to hide under her blanket for the next year or so instead.
This happened to me a couple days ago, as it often does in challenging seasons of life. I walked downstairs after delaying my alarm one too many times, and the only thing I could see around me were the dishes that I forgot to wash the night before, the baskets of wrinkled laundry that needed ironing and folding, the sickly plants that needed tending, the floor that desperately needed vacuuming, and the stack of overdue homework on my desk that needed completing. I stopped on the edge on the bottom stair as I glanced over everything. My heart felt heavy and my feet were practically glued to the carpet. Questions like, Is this what the rest of my life looks like? Is this all I’m ever going to contribute? lurked in the back of my mind.
Then I did what we all have to do in adulthood when we hit the proverbial wall – trudge through and attempt to Do The Things anyway.
Something interesting happened about an hour after this instance of “depression paralysis.” I stacked the day-old dishes and left them to soak, and then sat down at my desk to do some reading in Proverbs and a systematic theology book I’m slowly working through. The chapter I came to is one I find myself reading over and over and over, especially when I suffer from I-Don’t-See-How-It’s-Really-Possible-To-Know-Anything-About-God Syndrome. This particular chapter is concerned with the doctrine of God (His names, being, and attributes) and it gives some of the most practical advice I’ve ever read on why it makes sense for Christians to believe that God – who created the universe out of nothing and who isn’t fully comprehensible – can truly be known and loved by sinful human beings. Especially sinful human beings who notice little besides their to-do lists.
And here’s the great thing about not merely studying the things of God, but doing so while knowing they are just as true and real as the stacks of dishes and clothes over your shoulder . . . everything that seems so monumentally stressful is put into its proper perspective.
If I had a dollar for each time I have begged people to see how important and relevant theology is, I could pay off my student debt . . . like, yesterday. It’s not because I think theological knowledge is necessary for salvation. It isn’t. I also don’t think humans are safe from twisting and idolizing theological study. We aren’t. But we also aren’t going to grow in our faith and love for God if we do not endeavor to see how the reality of His nature, His revelation, His personal attributes, His sovereign purposes, is wisdom, His wrath toward sin, and His forgiveness of the redeemed in Christ all have an incredible bearing on regular, everyday human life. If Christianity is true, it radically changes everything about our perspective of earthly life. This is the essence of theological study.
When I study theology with humility and right intent (not the pride found in puffed-up knowledge) I am proclaiming, if only to myself, that I trust my faith has a bearing on reality. Doctrine shows me that I am to do all this – the cleaning, the cooking, the writing, you name it – “as unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). And it invites my heart to rest in the God who is infinitely more significant and powerful than the earthly problems in my life that threaten to crush me.