We know in our heads that we cannot take life for granted because the Bible says so, but we learn it in our hearts through experience on the ground. During the past three days, I have received three reminders that our earthly life at its best is both fragile and brief. Two reminders took the form of emails, bringing word of friends who have received devastating diagnoses. The other was a phone call reporting the death of a relative. It is evidence of godly wisdom for us to pause at such news and to reflect with sober mind on the lessons it has to teach.
The first word came as a prayer request from son Jeremy and wife Kristy, for a couple among their dearest friends. In their mid-30’s with preschool twins, the couple have lost a parent and a child already, but have just learned that the wife has Multiple Sclerosis. Deeply committed to Christ, the couple still are in shock at the news. A day or two later, I received word that my friend David Burge, a New Zealand pastor, Christian magazine editor, devoted husband and father of eight children, has been diagnosed with leukemia. A man of faith, courage and extraordinary achievement, David has long borne the affliction of cerebral palsy or its equivalent — and now he battles cancer as well.
This weekend brought a telephone call telling me that my uncle, Bill Short (W.N. Short, Jr.), age 66, had collapsed while teaching one of his university classes and died shortly after. Only 17 months my senior, Bill has always seemed more like a cousin than an uncle. Like my mother and their other siblings, Bill grew up on the mission field in Africa, where his parents (my grandparents) served the Lord for about 60 years. Lean, witty and dashing, head of the modern languages department at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. Bill was deeply spiritual and was heavily invested in gospel work in many places. No one expected him to be first among his siblings to die.
I have been incredibly blessed with good health most of my life, but hospitalizations with asthma, atrial fibrillation and a herniated disc — plus a very minor stroke and a skin cancer since July (both remedied now)– powerfully remind me that I am mortal. Even if we live our 70 years or more, we do so one minute at a time. Therefore let us give thanks for every grace, serve one another in times of distress and lay up treasures in heaven. God knows our days and our names, and he will never disappoint any who take refuge in him.