Wake-up calls are all around. Just look at the news, or even at events unfolding around you. On August 19, 2009, a tornado hit the small town of Williamsville, Illinois, near my home, leveling a Casey’s convenience store and an antique store where a friend of mine worked—though fortunately she wasn’t there at the time. The same tornado struck a country house just two miles from our own. That same day, a teenage friend of our daughter Sammy, miraculously walked away from a serious truck accident. The events of that day awakened me to the brevity of life. And there have been other such days, including the one when my good friend Travis told me that he had hit a deer head-on while driving down the interstate at eighty miles per hour. He told me that he never saw the animal—only felt the crash and the air bag deploying. Then, when I was vacationing in Wyoming, I, too, hit a deer head-on on the interstate. And Travis was right—I was frightened by how quickly the accident came and went.
When I was 41 years old, I began to feel as if God were trying to get my attention. That year, three different men whom I knew, all aged 41, died—one in a car wreck and two from brain aneurysms of which they had been unaware. That year, I started thinking seriously about my own mortality. Strange how we try to constantly push our inevitable death out of our minds! I have come to believe that we must do just the opposite. If we can learn to intentionally consider our own impending death, then we change death from an enemy to be feared into a wise teacher for which we may be thankful. If we can be alert to the wake-up calls around us, then death can teach you how to live during our few days on earth.
Earthly life can certainly be very short, sometimes being counted in days, not years. A few years ago, I visited friends in Ottawa, Canada, who had lost a child a few months before. Mark and Rachel’s little Joshua lived only twenty-nine days. He was their first child, as well as the first grandchild on one side of the family. Mark and Rachel were grieving deeply, but they were grieving as Christians, people who have hope beyond the grave. I found them thanking the Lord for the twenty-nine days they had with little Joshua, looking forward to seeing him again in heaven. On the other end of the spectrum, my wife, Julie, traveled to Canada to celebrate her grandmother’s ninety-ninth birthday—which, as things turned out, was her last. A twenty-nine-day life and a ninety-nine-year life are, from God’s point of view, brief. Wake-up calls remind us that every life on earth is short.
Question: Have you noticed any wake-up calls around you?
“So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.”
1 Thessalonians 5:6