“However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all.”
The gift of life becomes more precious with each passing year. It would seem that as one ages, the gratitude for life becomes more intense, possibly because the majority of ones days are behind not before, and as such, each day becomes more precious. Youth seems oblivious to the fact that life is fleeting and things will not always remain as they are. A quote attributed to Lady Mary Wortley articulates the attitude of those who have yet to face their inevitable mortality. She writes: “There is nothing can pay one for that invaluable ignorance which is the companion of youth, those sanguine groundless hopes, and that lively vanity which makes all the happiness of life.”
Wortley views the ignorance of youth as invaluable and describes their cheerful optimism as baseless. The problem with this kind of hopefulness is that it is quickly examined and found wanting when such pleasure is based on favorable situations and an expectant future. Many individuals tramp through decades of their lives clinging to things that have no substance, to people that will disappoint, and to philosophies that will evaporate in the face of life’s inevitable trials and tribulations.
The photo above reveals three generations in a family who came face-to-face with a life-altering scenario. The picture was taken on New Year’s Eve with the mother (bottom right) facing her imminent passing after a long battle with breast and bone cancer. Her two young daughters (top and bottom middle) would lose their mother within months of the year end celebration. The widowed matriarch of the family (bottom left) would experience a parent’s greatest fear; she would outlive her only child.
Groundless hope and ignorance cannot stand in the face of life’s inevitable adversities. Ecclesiastes 8:7 states, “Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come: No man has power over the wind to contain it, so no one has power over the day of his death.” How does a mother cope with the reality that she will not see her young daughters marry or raise a family? What does she think when the natural order of life is upended and a 75 year old mother will be forced to outlive her 48 year old daughter? How does one cope without an expectant future? The Bible reveals Job’s thoughts when faced with his own test, “Where then is my hope — who can see any hope for me?” (Job 17:15).
Ultimately Job found his hope in God and his heartfelt reply is recorded in Job 42:5, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” Job’s relationship with God changed after encountering Him in and through the trials of life. Job experienced God, intimately and personally. God is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Young and old can have a personal relationship with him. “God will never forget the needy and the hope of the afflicted will never perish,” (Psalm 9:18). “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” (Isaiah 46:4). We are encouraged as we read that “God in his holy dwelling is a father to the fatherless and a defender of widows” (Psalm 68:5). The family pictured above experienced God’s faithfulness and love. They trusted Him and they encountered God in and through their trials. “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him” (Lamentations 3:25).
Our Father and Lord, we come before you today, admitting our ignorance. We have placed our confidence in people or things that are powerless to sustain us through life’s journey. We submit ourselves to you this day asking to be filled with your Holy Spirit that we may know and love you as you take your rightful place in our minds and hearts. Teach us to walk faithfully before you all of our days. Humbly in Christ. Amen.