Puritan Thomas Watson said many things well, but few perhaps as concise and accurate as this in summarizing the human lifespan: “We come into the world with a cry, and we go out of it with a groan.”


On the eve of my 70th birthday, I find myself pondering the prayer of Moses, the man of God, in Psalm 90. His inspired assessment of life’s transitoriness—especially in contrast to God’s eternality (see v. 1-8), sobers me. It contains a great deal of groaning.


How can this conclusion of the human condition not arrest a 69-year old’s attention?


9 For all our days pass away under your wrath;
    we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

10 The years of our life are seventy,
    or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
    they are soon gone, and we fly away.

11 Who considers the power of your anger,
    and your wrath according to the fear of you?


Verse ten says it all.


At seventy, I’m not long for this world. Will I make eighty or longer? Perhaps—if God gives me strength. Only he knows. My times are in his hands (Psalm 31:15). The older I get, the more I think about the fading and withering sure to come, sooner than later.


Moses groans under this weight of every person’s destiny. God returns us to the dust from which he made us (v. 3). Nothing speaks to the severity of God’s wrath on our sinfulness like the inevitability of death—the curse of all curses (Gen. 3:19). Praise God for the Savior who absorbed the wrath in his shed blood for all who turn from their sin and trust in Him!


The man of God does not leave us in the throes of sin’s awful groaning. He turns us to the help and perspective which lies in the faith’s focus praying. The Psalm ends with a series of petitions to lift us from despair to hope.


He leads with the most important in v. 12:


“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”


Do the math. Life flies by—swifter than a weaver’s shuttle (Job 7:6). You are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes (James 4:14). 70 X 365 = 25,550 days sounds like an eternity when you’re 20; but trust me—they feel more like a dream soon to vanish away to this old man.


John Calvin decried the folly in failing to pray this way:


It indeed seems at first sight absurd to pray that we may know the number of our years. What? since even the strongest scarcely reach the age of fourscore years, is there any difficulty in reckoning up so small a sum? Children learn numbers as soon as they begin to prattle; and we do not need a teacher in arithmetic to enable us to count the length of a hundred upon our fingers. So much the fouler and more shameful is our stupidity in never comprehending the short term of our life. Even he who is most skillful in arithmetic, and who can precisely and accurately understand and investigate millions of millions, is nevertheless unable to count fourscore years in his own life. It is surely a monstrous thing that men can measure all distances without themselves, that they know how many feet the moon is distant from the center of the earth, what space there is between the different planets; and, in short, that they can measure all the dimensions both of heaven and earth; while yet they cannot number threescore and ten years in their own case. It is therefore evident that Moses had good reason to beseech God for ability to perform what requires a wisdom which is very rare among mankind. … What can be a greater proof of madness than to ramble about without proposing to one’s self any end? True believers alone, who know the difference between this transitory state and a blessed eternity, for which they were created, know what ought to be the aim of their life. No man then can regulate his life with a settled mind, but he who, knowing the end of it, that is to say death itself, is led to consider the great purpose of man’s existence in this world, that he may aspire after the prize of the heavenly calling (emphasis added).


However many days yet remain for me on this earth, one thing is for certain. I will pray this prayer daily: Lord, teach me to number my days that I might make every last one count for time and eternity. Nothing matters more on that great homecoming day than presenting to you a heart of wisdom.


You may well wish to pray the same—age 20, 70, or more.