CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Life is Short

Jul 27, 2016

It is a truism that the younger you are, the less likely you will think seriously of eternity, and the older you are, the more likely you will do so. As more and more aches and pains and illnesses and medical problems arise with old age, the more you realise just how short life is, and how quickly it passes.

And the more you spend time with doctors, in hospitals, and dealing with various health issues, the more awareness of eternity dawns on you. This was driven home to me again today. I have been in the hospital twice today so far, and will soon be going for the third time. In this case it is for my wife who had a common procedure, but still a major one.

She may be back home in 3-5 days. So I and the kids are trying to hold the fort. In the process, we learn how much she does to make this household run smoothly and efficiently! But this becomes increasingly common as we age. It is not just increased hospital visits of friends and family and colleagues but also more funerals. As we age, less and less weddings are gone to while more and more funerals are attended.

Things we took for granted as young people certainly can no longer be as we age. Getting in and out of a car is now something requiring a bit of effort. Getting out of deep, comfortable lounge furniture can take a bit of effort. And the visits to the doctor and to hospital certainly start to mount up.

If you are young, enjoy it! All those clichés you heard from old folks while you were young which went in one ear and out the other all of a sudden become gospel truths, such as “When you have your health, you have everything”. Now all those quaint sayings have taken on new life as I experience it all for myself.

Of course being old does however have some advantages: one is you recall some popular music from long ago, which many young people may not even be aware of. Two songs have been going through my head of late as I continue to age. One was the tune “Mother’s Little Helper” performed by Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones.

It first came out in 1966, and one line from it I have not forgotten – indeed, it now takes on new meaning: “What a drag it is getting old.” Of course living longer has many advantages and blessings but certainly just in terms of health issues it can indeed get to be a bit of a drag. Another familiar phrase from our youth now stands out: “You’re not a spring chicken anymore”.

And more well-known song along these lines, even for the younger generation, is the memorable tune sung by Paul McCartney and the Beatles: “When I’m Sixty Four”. It appeared in 1967, and began with these lyrics:

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four?

bardot 2I can relate – well, at least to the ‘losing my hair’ bit. The 64 bit will still need to wait for a few more months. But I am getting there. Of course I should point out that while Paul sang this when he was just 25, he is now 74. Hey, makes me feel pretty young yet!

Indeed, how many of the rock stars of our time are now senior citizens, if they have not already passed on. Jagger is 73, Ringo Starr is 76, Eric Clapton is 71, Keith Richards is 72 (but looks 102!), and Joni Mitchell is 72.

And movie stars that we grew up with are also showing their age – big time. Roger Moore is 88, Kirk Douglas is 99, Bridget Bardot is 81, Robert Redford is 79, Harrison Ford is 74, and Sophia Loren is 81.

Wow, where did all those years go? Now the spiritual point I want to make with all this is obviously the brevity of life and the need to number our days, as Scripture says. But I am just now back from the third hospital visit today that I mentioned earlier.

What happened there made me even more intent on writing this piece. I took the whole family and just as we got to my wife’s hospital room there were buzzers buzzing and lights flashing and four or five medical staff there. As a nurse came up to me I said, “I am her husband – is everything OK?”

She took me by the arm and led me and the boys away, and said we could not go in now. So we sat in a waiting room for ten minutes where of course my heart was pounding and my mind was racing: has something gone terribly wrong? Did I lose her? Was I too late? Did I miss seeing her for the last time?

They eventually told us her blood pressure had dropped quite dramatically, but it was all good now and not too uncommon in these situations. Some more work was done with her and eventually we were allowed to go in. I told her she has to stop dying on us! She agreed.

So it made me think of a related important spiritual truth: we dare not ever take for granted our loved ones, our family, our friends. You never know when it will be the last time you see one of them. Here today, gone tomorrow is just one of many biblical aphorisms that apply here.

Indeed, the brevity of life is spoken about in many biblical passages. A few of the more well-known ones include:

-Psalm 39:4-5,11 Show me, Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
even those who seem secure.
surely everyone is but a breath.
-Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.
-Eccesliastes 9:12 Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.
-1 Peter 1:24 All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off,
-James 4:14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

So we need to keep short accounts with one another. Time really is short, and we often do not appreciate what we have until it is gone. We do not fully savour relationships until they are suddenly broken. We so often do not know how valuable our friendships and families really are.

Since I have been mentioning songs from my youth, another one comes to mind here. The line, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone” from the 1970 Joni Mitchell tune “Big Yellow Taxi” can also be raised here.

We too easily take for granted things we highly value. A quick trip to the hospital like I just had certainly can drive that truth home. We all need to live life in the light of eternity. We need to live each day as if it may be our last. Being in right relationship with God is the best way to assure this.

Jesus said it best with his “Parable of the Rich Fool” found in Luke 12:13-17:

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

[1507 words]

19 Responses to Life is Short

  • Bill I am so sorry to hear your wife is doing poorly. After being told back when my now seventeen year old son was in like second or third grade that my husband had “six months on the outside” my husband has “died on us” many many times, yet still is here. We never know when we will be called home and certainly should make the most of every moment. I will keep you and her in my prayers.

  • Thanks Michele. It was a short term problem, and she seems to be better now thanks.

  • It seems as though weeks, months and years are flying past faster and faster. Many once famous people died this year and have gone into eternity.
    “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
    Life does go by so fast and we think we have more time than we really do.
    Sobering post, Bill.

  • All very true, Bill!

  • Never a truer word said or written. I’m one of many mothers estranged from two out of three children. The third with major addiction issues. My family have deserted me at a time when I needed them most. I’ve tried to reconcile without success but shall continue to let love break through I pray ?
    What do you do when communication is broken and appears irreparable?

  • Praying for you and your family Bill, Glad your wife is feeling better. What a blessing to have such great medical care in this country.

  • Thanks Bill for sharing this journey with us. I too wonder sometimes where has time gone. Loved ones that have been on the journey with us and to to see they can go from us anytime.

  • God has placed us on a stage in which he develops character in us as we finally realize that life is not about us – but about God! Too bad way too many of our churches do not relay this concept to our young people so they will understand better what the purpose for our life is and that we will have to give an account for the way we used our time directly to God. In my case – I wasted much of my youth trying to figure it out through trial and error before submitting to God and His purpose for my life. Imagine what God can do with a life totally committed to His purposes since youth! May God help us to use the time we have left wisely in glorifying His name and expending His kingdom here on earth.

  • My prayers and best wishes to your wife, yourself and family. Cherish them all. They are your most precious earthly assets in the important work you do.

  • Yes, I can testify to bad experiences in hospitals. When my third child was newly born, she was handed to me by the Midwife, who said: “Take a good look at her because you may not see her again!” (A great thing to say to a mother who has just given birth!). However Natalie grew up to be a healthy, active woman with no physical problems. Likewise there have been several times in my own life where medical staff told my relatives I may not make it. Obviously they were wrong. As a former nurse myself, I’m careful what I say to patients and their relatives. Positive words and encouragement do much to promote healing – and God, not the medical staff, has the final say! At the same time, such experiences are a healthy reminder that our time on earth is brief, and should therefore be used wisely.

  • In reading this article, I thought about a couple of musicians who mocked Christianity and were fornicators and drunkards, and died suddenly at a young age. I am particularly referring to Bon Scott from AC/DC who died on his own vomit after being drunk. I wonder where he is now? The words of Scripture are in complete contrast to that of the modern pagan godless world that still idolises him

  • Thanks Pierre. Yes quite a few died young actually, and quite a few at the age of 27, as I discuss here:

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/12/08/john-lennon-rock-culture-and-eternity/

  • Thanks for a great article, Bill. As I sit in my warm lounge room, feeling the aches and pains in my body, and feeling like having a snooze… I agree that we should not take life for granted.
    Blessings to you, your wife and family.

  • Bill, I am so sorry to hear that your wife is unwell at the moment and continue to hold you and your family in prayer. I and I’m sure all your readers look forward to hearing that she is soon fully recovered. May our Great God Almighty bless you and yours, Numbers 6:24-26

  • Kerry, regarding estrangement from your children – I and millions of parents are experiencing this around the world – you are not alone. Part of the suffering of these last days. Do not despair – Jesus will become your all in all in this experience as you come to Him with your broken heart each day. LUKE 4:18. Kerry, you are entering into the sufferings of Jesus, who experienced this same pain of separation while on the earth. He will never leave us or forsake us.

  • The Parable of the Rich Fool sounds strikingly similar to a superannuation plan.

    Sometimes I wonder what God’s opinion of retirement is. Maybe for Christians we should call it reassignment – to God given duties worthy of our age. My wife’s grandmother in Romania had very little, but she fasted and prayed for her family right till the day she was called home to be with Jesus just recently. I was honoured to call her my own Grandmother. She had nothing by our material standards, and faithfully endured incredible hardships. Yet she was a faithful handmaiden of the Lord’s. I loved her so much. Every time my wife and I think about her we are reminded of how fleeting life is, and how much more important eternal matters are.

    David Clay

    Darwin

  • Greetings in Christ Bill. First of all, I want to say that I feel so sorry to learn of your wife’s problem. I will definitely pray for her full recovery and for the Lord’s caring for you and your family.
    I am one of the many loyal visitors of your website. I’m a Chinese New Zealander originally from HongKong before the 1997 handover, now living in Marlborough of the South Island. Though being new to your site I have already benefitted so much from all your marvellous writings and have learnt a lot of your excellent literary skill. Not only is your superb pen, your speaking out from a sense of justice and your sheer devotedness to the noble mission of making a stand for God and His kingdom are what I admire very much. I’m especially impressed with your broad knowledge and insightfullness on hegemonic Islamism and overbearing LGBT movement. I’m sternly against homosexual practice despite having a gay man as my decades-old friend living in Toronto. I did all I could, like submission to the parliament, writing to the 121 MPs, and lobbying among people I know, to oppose the passing of same-sex marriage in N.Z. 4 years ago. I hope the Aussies would not see this immoral and ridiculous law passed this time.
    My writing skill is much inferior to yours though sometimes I would also pick up my pen. But I identify myself with you in standing strong for God and Biblical truth and I can assure you that you have got my full support for your mission. I have been distributing your articles to all my friends, paricularly in the church circle, and will continue to do so. Press on, keep at it with this rightful cause of yours. The world desperately needs more voices like yours. Above all, the Christian community needs more dedicated people to act as watchmen and say things aphoristic. And our Lord calls for more crack soldiers and prophets to work for Him on the field.
    I find this ‘Life is Short’ very enjoyable ‘cos I’m also on the wait to get to my 65 in 8 months’ time. I shared some of my thoughts with my friends shortly past my last birthday using the Beatles’ “When I’m 64”! I also love the music and songs of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. Kirk Douglas was still in his late 30s when I watched his 1960 film “Spartacus”, and he’s now 99! Am I right to guess that that woman in the photo featured in this article the French beaut Bridget Bardot?
    By the grace of God, I’m still keeping good health. My diet is 80% plant-based and I mostly eat fish and chicken. I do not go along with the 7th-day Adventism and found you have a very good analytic piece on them, I’m still in the process of probing into whether they are a cult or legalists – hope your readers could see you write a little more on this. Although we do not concur with them on Sabbath-keeping, yet their advices about healthy eating and lifestyle are something we can absorb from them. For your health’s sake at this age, keep yourself physically active. Besides exercises, I also practise TaiQi (TaiChi). But Yoga is absolutely to be avoided.
    Your wife and you will be kept in my prayers from across the “ditch”. May God protects you and greatly uses you in your work of contending for the faith in Him.
    Peace and blessings,
    Paul

  • Many thanks for the kind words Paul. Yes, that picture is of Bardot. And I speak a bit about the SDA here:

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2014/02/26/ben-carson-potus-and-the-sda/

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