In 1987, after 18 months of battling esophageal cancer, my father passed away. He was a wonderful man and a terrific husband and father. During his battle with cancer, I remember a conversation with him in which he shared his perspective about his situation.
He knew unless God intervened he would not live many more months. I asked him if he had thought about the possibility of dying. He responded to me with simple, yet profound words. He said that he did not think about dying, and that no one knew exactly when their death would come. Unlikely though it was, I could have possibly died before he did, through a car wreck or another means. He simply said, “I am going to live until I die.”
NOT WAITING FOR DEATH
Though simple words, this statement has much depth. On the surface, it means only God know the number of our days. We do not know when we will die, so we will, in the most basic sense, “Live until we die.”
However, my dad meant it in a far deeper way. He had terminal cancer, had undergone multiple surgeries, and had taken chemotherapy and radiation. There were no medical options available to him to eradicate the cancer. He was, barring a miracle, going to die relatively soon. Nevertheless, he was not going to wait on death.
He was going to LIVE until he died.
He was going to approach each day as a day to live, rather than just simply waiting to die. This did not mean to selfishly attempt to cross as many things off of a “bucket list”. But rather, he was going to appreciate each day, enjoy the beauty, embrace the pain, engage in all aspects of life: grow, learn, reach, share, and love.
I was reminded of this profound approach to life this past week in a leadership training in Tunisia. There was a man in attendance who was there with his wife and children. Two weeks before the conference, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer which had already spread to his liver and lungs. He was told he had two months to live, even with chemotherapy.
LEAVING THE FUTURE IN GOD'S HANDS
I do not know what I would have done in his situation, but I know what he did. He did not let his life end based on what the future might hold. He chose to live until he died. He went to a conference to prepare himself for the role to which God had called him to be as a leader in the church, content to leave the future in God’s hands. He would live today, and let tomorrow take care of itself.
Jesus encouraged us to do this very thing when He said, "do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself" (Matthew 6:34). Both my father and this Christian leader in Tunisia refused to let something their past (a diagnosis) or what seemed to be a certainty for their future (imminent death), keep them from living in the present.
Faith is not denying reality, but rather embracing it as under the dominion of a sovereign God who holds the whole world in His hands and who loves us with an unfailing love. We have every reason to live until we die.