September 24, 2022
Up until our sixties Ben and I didn’t talk much about dying. It was always something that “we’ll discuss later, when we’re older.”
That changed when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer. Suddenly the frightening prospect we never dared to broach became a looming possibility.
With my fragile condition as a quadriplegic, I might not make it through chemotherapy. And the chemo might not kill all the cancer. I might … die.
The thought terrified Ben. My sister, who stayed with us to help me through chemotherapy, caught him crying one day in the kitchen.
He put down the sponge and dish, turned to her with wet eyes, and said, “I might lose her. I might lose my best friend.”
After the episode at the sink, I noticed a change. Ben and I sat outside in the backyard more often, enjoying the breeze and the birds at the feeder.
We noticed small things: tiny flowers poking through the soil, the pleasant sound of water in the fountain, a little lizard scurrying by. We talked more, sharing memories of favorite vacations.
We visited the beach. Prayed hand in hand more frequently. Read books together. In short, our love for each other deepened, as well as our vision of heaven.
Ben and I are thankful for our scares with cancer. They awakened us to how fragile life is—and how quickly it passes. King David had a similar experience. In Psalm 39 he wrote,
Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.
Verses 4-5 (NLT)
Our afflictions underscore how frail and tenuous our life on earth really is. Old age and disability lift our eyes off this earth and force us to think about life eternal, where there is no sorrow or pain.
We are not as strong as we tell ourselves; our mind may try to convince us otherwise, but we are not invincible.
God’s measuring rod of your life is summed up in a single word: fleeting! We are but a moment … he is eternal. We must be made to agree with God’s assessment of our lives and learn to yield to his purposes.
We are merely moving shadows,
and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
not knowing who will spend it.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.
Psalm 39:6-7 (NLT)
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.
What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
One reason God wants us to understand the brevity of life is to direct us to the next life, the joyful, never-ending life beyond the grave, waiting for us in heaven. This life is not the only life there is, nor is it the main thing.
There’s a much bigger and forever-longer life on the horizon! That’s a very good thing to know, of course, but don’t file the truth away in some dusty mental file cabinet. THINK about it today. Turn it over in your mind. Let the happy truth seep into every corner of your soul.
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