In a moment, life changes forever…

A couple of weeks ago I was driving from Annapolis, Maryland to Strasburg, Pennsylvania—before sunrise. It was a beautiful drive once I got around the Baltimore Beltway into the countryside and onto the serpentine roads of northern MD and southern PA. As the sun was starting to bulge over the horizon, some of the houses were still mostly dark with just a light or two flickering on as people were getting up for work or school. A new day was dawning. I’m sure that most thought it was just going to be another day of doing the same old thing—at least it was Friday, relief was in sight.

I mused that for some, however, something might take place today that would change life forever. Life would never be the same. Someone might die or receive a diagnosis of a terminal disease. Someone might discover a spousal affair or get divorced. Someone might get fired or go bankrupt; whatever the event, everything would change. Life would be dominated by it—nothing would be able to contend with its significance, not only to an individual but to an entire family. How does one ever prepare for such a thing? How does one cope once it happens?

It brought to mind the lives of two of our next door neighbors. One was an older lady who had cancer and was one day being picked up by a friend for a chemo treatment. There was no answer when the friend knocked on the door or tried to call on her cell phone. I was in the yard, packing the car for a vacation trip. The friend saw me and asked if I would go into the house and see why the neighbor was not answering her door or phone. I went in, calling her name and heard a muffled “help” coming from the basement. Apparently, our dear neighbor had fallen down the cellar stairs and was lying on the cold cement floor. She was conscious but very weak. She said she had been there since the night before and could not move. I covered her up with more blankets, called 911, and prayed with her until the paramedics came and took her to the hospital. When we returned from our vacation 2 weeks later, we found out the she had died. Life suddenly changed for her entire family.

A second neighbor, a good man in his late 50’s early 60’s, also fell down his basement steps less than two months ago. His adult sons estimate he had been lying at the bottom of the stairs unconscious for 2 days before they found him. He never fully regained consciousness. I visited him in the hospital as did some of our neighbors. It was determined that he had injured his brain in the fall and would never regain the use of his limbs. When his organs began shutting down, they brought him home under Hospice care. He died last week and we had a very meaningful celebration of life service for him hosted by his sons. My neighbor and I had talked a few times about eternal things—one time being just after I received my cancer diagnosis. He was open and receptive. I pray that he continued to move towards God. Life has suddenly and radically changed for his family.

I am sure that you can think of more examples of how life suddenly changed for some of your neighbors, friends, and their families—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. First there was light . . . then came the night. Maybe you have had such an experience.

So, as we turn the lights on every morning wondering if this will be the day life will change, we can do so in one of three ways:

  • We can take life for granted and believe that things like this happen to others and not to us—anyway, the weekend is coming.
  • We can fear life and what it might bring to the extent we take no risks, close our hearts to others, and never enjoy the adventure of our journey.
  • We can embrace life in all its richness by daily entrusting ourselves into the care of a loving and sovereign God who will not allow anything to come into our lives that has not first passed through his Fatherly hand. A God who loves us more than we know and gave himself to us in his Son, Jesus Christ.

In the darkness and uncertainty of WWII, Pastor Helmut Thielicke wrote a small book titled, “The Silence of God.” In it there is a sentence that has helped me face my own fear and uncertainty about tomorrow. He said, “If the last hour belongs to God, we do not need to fear the next moment.”

6 thoughts on “In a moment, life changes forever…

  1. Kelly Powell

    Oh Dave, I so needed your words “this morning”. My beautiful mother was just diagnosis with dementia and she has lost her license. She is 86 and a feisty woman. She has loved the Lord since she was a child and taught me about our loving Savior. I’m sadden about the fear and anger she has right now and am trying to as patiently as possible help her. The last sentence of your blog is such a beautiful reminder that every moment belongs to God! – Think about you and Gloria often… praying for your journey as well.

    1. Thank you Kelly. I’m sorry to her about your mom. My sister Joyce who is the same age is facing the same battle. It’s sad to sit and watch but a comfort to know the Lord is still with them and will never leave them even though they seem like different people than we knew.

    1. Thanks Dave. Did I mention to you that Wipfand Stock is publishing my Romans Commentary. I’m ready to send it the completed manuscript for editing- just waiting for Perrin to write the Foreword. I’m working on the Goodness of Affliction which will be a compilation of 25 of my blogs on the subject. Crossway rejected me so I guess I’ll try WipfandStock again as they have a number of genres that they publish- not just academic. Would you ever consider writing my foreword since you know me and have a little knowledge already of my writing? I still remember the book you wrote about the death of your dad and how I passed it around to guys I knew who were grieving the same loss.

  2. Deborah Fagan Schultz

    Your story is familiar. We also had a neighbor who suffered the same tragedy of a man living alone and falling, only to be found days later having died from the fall. It’s scary being alone, even when you know that God is with you. I’ve always said that God works though other people. Neighbors play a part in that.You played a part in the end, staying to comfort and pray for your neighbor. You served as a blessing from God. Kelly, if you read this, I’d be happy to sit and talk with you about my own experience with my mom. I do understand.

    I also have experienced, and still do, the grief of divorce, living alone, cancer, the loss of a mother to dementia and her death at 95 yrs old (4 years ago Nov 16). It’s a comfort when someone truly understands. It can be a validation that God is present and compassionate when it comes to our fear.

    So I guess my message is that of Jesus’ when asked what is the great commandment. Whether Christian or Jew, believer or seeker, I believe Jesus meant it for all. His answer came from the Old Testament of Deuteronomy and Leviticus.

    “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 22:37-40)

  3. Keith Matthews

    Thank you Dave. One of my sayings has been “Never take your good health for granted. We never appreciate good health until we don’t have it.” Even though we may be suffering, there is always someone who’s suffering is deeper than mine. I can complain selfishly or I can be thankful that I am not in my situation alone. Then I pray for someone, someone I may not even know, who is dealing with circumstances much worse or more difficult than my own. Someone who God knows but I may not – a prayer for the unknown Sufferer (Soldier).

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