Such starkly contrasting events, especially coming, as they sometimes do, so close together, tend to sober us and cause us to realize that just as there is life, there is also death.
My aunt was 96 years old. She had lived a very long life, much longer than two of her four sisters. My mother, the third youngest of the four, died first, killed by a drunk driver. Then the eldest sister died of natural causes. Now this aunt is gone, and I’ve yet to learn exactly what happened in her situation. Only one of the sisters, the youngest, is left.
In the movie Pollyanna is a character who portrays an austere and cold-hearted preacher who is a bit tactless in his word choice in sermon preparation. He thunders from the pulpit, “Death comes unexpectedly!” His manner of presentation sets everyone in a negative mood. But the truth of his message is inescapable. We tend to think it cruel when death comes to the young, not so much when it comes late in life. But, young or old, death comes to us all. And often it does come unexpectedly. So we should be ready for it whenever it comes to us. And it will. The question is not if but when. And the attendant follow-up question is, Are we ready?
I just this morning finished reading Warren Wiersbe’s book Be Satisfied, his commentary on the book of Ecclesiastes. The biblical Solomon, the wisest man, examined life cursorily and concluded that life is “vanity,” emptiness, worthlessness. “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity,” he hastily concluded (Eccles. 1:2). But then he began to reexamine his observations more carefully and had to revise his conclusions.
Life is vanity only if it is lived selfishly and without God. One finds true meaning in life only when he or she focuses on God, fears God, and obeys His will, and that involves putting others before self. Solomon ended his book with this summary: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccles. 12:13).
But then he shared the ultimate “so what”: “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (v. 14).
So the question is not only are we ready for that unexpected death that will inevitably come our way but moreso are we ready for the judgment that will follow it? For those who “fear God and keep His commandments,” “there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1). Rather, there is glorification and eternity with Christ. For all others, there is only a guilty verdict and eternal condemnation.
Both births and deaths have lessons for the living. They both cause one to consider the meaning of life. If we’re honest with ourselves, we must conclude, with Solomon, that it pays to be ready for the unexpected.