“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:14
One week ago today, my son and I were having dinner with my parents in their home. Half-way through the meal we heard a loud and startling crash. I quickly ran outside and saw the horrific and tragic scene of a three-vehicle wreck. A couple in their mid-sixties, traveling on a motorcycle, were just two miles from their home when they were struck on the right side by an SUV propelling them into oncoming east-bound traffic, where they were struck a second time by a large Ford pickup. I immediately called 911, but it was too late for even CPR. They were gone. I realize that scene and moment will likely stay with me for the rest of my life.
Over the last few days, as I’ve been praying for their family, as well as the other drivers and families represented, I’ve been contemplating how easy it is for all of us to take life for granted. One moment this couple, who had been married for decades, were either on their way home or just starting out. Maybe they thought they’d enjoy the evening summer breeze and a joy-ride, or maybe they were heading out to dinner, perhaps even returning home from visiting a friend or a loved one. And then in a flash, likely too fast for them to even comprehend, they were ushered into eternity.
Life is precious and fragile, my friends. I personally believe that some of the strident mandates and protocols enacted by our society these past eighteen months during the COVID-19 crisis is a consequence of having too long operated and lived under the unspoken assumption that human beings are invincible. Therefore, a virus so small that you have to view it under a microscope, has been able to hijack and dominate the entire world. While being foolish or reckless is not the heart of wisdom, I think a friend’s comment sums up well our current reality “For fear that we could or might die, we’ve cancelled all life.”
Many will wake up today but never make it to bed tonight. Rather than shock us, it ought to motivate us to live soberly (yet still joyfully-the two are not mutually exclusive!) A Bible teacher and mentor of mine once told me, “Only when you are ready to die, are you truly ready to live.” Far from being morbid, the hope of eternal life with Christ and the scriptures encourage us to live well and honestly in light of this fragile existence:
“Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.” Psalm 144:4
“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” Proverbs 27:1
“Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:14-15
There are many other verses that speak to our temporal life on this earth. And yet, the Bible also floods us with great encouragement to live life with intentionality and Kingdom-minded hope:
“The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” Psalm 138:8
As Reformed believers, we know that God “from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordains whatsoever comes to pass.” (WCF 3.1) We can rest assured in this solemn truth that the one who holds our days in his hands, is a kind and benevolent Father.
I am writing this blog post from my hotel room in Topsail Beach, North Carolina. Today, September 2nd, just seven days after witnessing the tragic end of one couple’s journey together, I have the exciting and awesome privilege of officiating the covenant vows of marriage to two wonderful young people, which marks the beginning of another couple’s journey together. That’s part of the beauty of being in pastoral ministry. We see the whole spectrum of life, sometimes in the same week (or even day!)
But regardless of what today may bring, or if we are blessed with another tomorrow, our focus and hope is to be the same. “Therefore , since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2a