“Did you get a call from the doctor’s office?” The text appeared on my phone as I sat at a railroad crossing and waited for a train to pass on the way home from shopping. “What call?” I wondered. I gave into temptation and texted my friend back, and learned that our children’s pediatrician had passed away. Close to our age and with children of his own, he wasn’t supposed to die. I watched the train pass in stunned silence. He was more than simply a doctor to those of us who entrusted our beloved children to his care — he was a friend.
I thought of all the times it had been his reassuring voice that calmed the anxiety I felt when one of my boys spiked a fever or developed a rash. My husband and I both sat in shock after I told him, trying to wrap our minds around the suddenness of it all. In the following days, fellow mothers and fathers of his other patients lamented and mourned the loss of the man who soothed their frayed parenting nerves. His life had impacted many.
Sometimes I think death can teach in a moment what it might take a lifetime to learn otherwise.
We live our lives with both speed and assumption that the following day is a certainty. It isn’t. When David asks God to let him know how fleeting his life is in Psalm 39, it feels like a brave request, doesn’t it?
Show me O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life.
– Psalm 39:4
I don’t believe David is really asking God for a specific number of days he will live; however, I think he’s asking to be given a sense of urgency. He doesn’t want to live each day blind to the fact that he will one day die.
He wants to make the most of each moment.
I’ve said goodbye to more than a few people in my lifetime, and each time the reality of a life ended snaps me right out of my assumption and complacency. This time here is short, and eternity is longer than we dare to dream. Our very breath is given only by God, and when it ceases, we will be home with Him.
Maybe we don’t really need the sting of death to remind us to number our days. Perhaps that’s what David was hoping for — a reality check without the pain of losing. What if we tried it, too, and asked God to help us know how fleeting our lives really are, simply so that we can live each moment for Him? How would that change our lives, if we knew that life indeed was fleeting, but we had a purpose while we’re here? I know that I would be more intentional, more loving, more patient. The sense of urgency that David sought would be ever-present in my heart.
If we live like we know we will die, then we live with purpose.
Make no mistake, we have a beautiful eternity to spend together with Jesus to look forward to, but while we’re here? We’ve got work to do.
If you consider the brevity of your own life, how does that change it? What can you do today, to make Him known?