Not long ago, a friend on Facebook wrote a post that I do not believe I will ever forget. He said, “Hello to all my Facebook friends and family. After forty-two days in the hospital, I’m home!! The bad news is, however, that I’ll not be around for long. My life expectancy is not more than six months. Please remember me in your prayers. Love y’all” (Rodney Cheatham). Situations such as this are never easy, and yet it is a blessing to have an opportunity to see your whole life in its true context and be able without distraction to prepare for its end. In Psalm 39 David wrote, “LORD, make me to know my end, And what is the measure of my days, That I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my age is as nothing before You; Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah” (Psa. 39:4-5). David was feeling the burdens of life, including all its worst fears, yet he understood that clinging to this life is never the answer. Instead, he concluded, “And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You” (Psa. 39:7).
Many people say something similar to this, but David focused his words spiritually. For him, the idea of death approaching emphasized the seriousness of dealing with the problem of sin (Psa. 39:8a). He did not ask for death to be taken away because he accepted what had happened as the Lord’s will (Psa. 39:9), asking only that he would remove his reproach (Psa. 39:8b). The wording of verses ten and eleven hint at the plague that followed David’s unauthorized census of Israel (2 Sam. 24:1-25), thus he is feeling the full weight of his sin and realizing that, while the king of Israel, his part in life is limited and brief. This is life in perspective. Death is certain, and wealth is fleeting, but a relationship with God can be eternal. It is so easy to attach ourselves to this world and what it offers. We can quickly forget how quickly life passes and how meaningless many of our accomplishments truly are. No matter what we do and no matter how long we live, we are frail beings whose existence is but for a moment upon this earth. This we cannot change, but we can change how we approach it as we live.
Three days after he left the hospital, our brother Rodney passed from this life. Three days. I never met Rodney in person, but others’ testimony of his faithfulness is meaningful. I am sure that it was a comfort to leave the hospital and return to the surroundings he knew with the people he loved. But how much greater comfort is there for Christians when, whether three days or more, we can then truly go home (2 Cor. 5:6; Phil. 1:21; 3:20). Let us therefore live as those who do not know how long we have upon this earth but yet are certain where we are going and live to go home. As James then echoes, “whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (Jas. 4:14).