Life is so fleeting. Some days (especially Mondays and Fridays!) seem to drag on forever, but we all know that our lives are just “a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). No one knows what tomorrow may bring, yet we live as though we have confidence that we will indeed have a tomorrow. We don’t take time to play with our kids today because we will do it tomorrow. We don’t take time for a cup of coffee with a friend because we will do it tomorrow. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. . .
I’ve been meditating on the brevity of life lately because within the last few months there have been three people who have been taken “much too soon” (as we say during times of bereavement). Of course, they weren’t taken too soon, for the Father knows exactly how long each of our lives should be, and to say that they were taken too soon gives the impression that there was No One in control over their lives.
The first to pass away was a young girl, just 23 years old and a newlywed. In the middle of her college career, she was diagnosed with a massive brain tumor that was incurable. Her 21-year-old husband did something that most 21-year-olds wouldn’t have the maturity to do – he gave up his life – his schooling and an incredible career opportunity – in order to be by her side 24/7. He was determined to be the one who loved her, bathed her, changed her, read to her, fed her, and protected her for the brief time he had with her. And then she was gone – her life just a vapor that imprinted itself on a young husband and the friends and family who loved her. But for the brief time she lived on earth, she glorified God. His name was praised before, during, and after this young woman’s illness because she chose to live for her Savior and trust the brevity of her life in His hands.
The second to die “too soon” was a mother of six. She was diagnosed with breast cancer just after finding out she was pregnant with her sixth child. Because of the pregnancy and the potential harm to her unborn child, she chose to forgo chemo treatments until after she had given birth. The baby was born healthy and happy, and the mother looked like she would be in remission. But the cancer came back, more aggressive this time; and just months later, this woman left behind a husband and six children. Her life was but a vapor as well, but she left a legacy that glorified God in the lives of her children, who will always know that their mother’s focus was on the eternal instead of the temporal. Through her cancer blog, many lives were transformed, people were saved, and hearts were turned back to the Savior.
The third person is a man, who just last week was a youth pastor, a father, a husband, a friend, a brother, and a son. He was only 42 but had struggled with sickness for several years until last week when he suddenly found himself unable to breathe. Within a few hours, two young children and a wife were left to call family and friends to notify them of a funeral that they probably hadn’t planned on for many years to come. In fact, his parents probably hadn’t planned on being at his funeral at all. Yet, here they were, reflecting on the life of a man whose life had become a vapor, swiftly slipping through their fingers. But the lives he has touched through his ministry and through his own children will shine on through eternity.
These were lives that touched mine in some way, and I know there are many stories around the world of people dying unexpectedly or “too soon.” As we hear on the news of the deaths of celebrities, I wonder what impact their lives were for eternity. Michael Jackson’s death seems to be rehashed over and over again in the news as the details surrounding his death are put to trial, but he was just like the three “unknown” people I mentioned. Despite his fame and fortune, in the end his life was just a vapor that affected people for an instant, but what can he say for his life in light of eternity?
Most recently, Steve Jobs’ death has been mourned by people worldwide who knew nothing about this man who co-founded Apple. Here was a visionary, a genius, a man who impacted the technological world. But his life was just a vapor. He envisioned ways to improve this temporal world, but did he have an eternal vision?
The truth is that death was never a part of God’s plan for us. So when someone dies, it feels unnatural to us because it is unnatural. When someone says, “It was meant to be,” they are wrong. The truth is that God wanted to give us a perfect home in the Garden of Eden, but we messed up! We allowed sin to come in and steal our loved ones from us. We lost sight of Him and so have to deal with the consequences! But there can still be a happy ending. If we just accept Him as our Savior and confess that we are sinners, we can live a life eternally with Him! Here’s the good news:
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
When I look at my children, it seems that they are growing so quickly. Already, Hannah is learning to spell her own name. And Ephraim is almost completely walking on his own now. It’s part of life for them to learn and grow and eventually leave my arms to try the world out on their own. Every day is a busy day with many things to do. But as I reflect on the brevity of life, I have to pause, take my children in my arms, and hold them one minute more. How can I impact them for eternity?