“For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them” (Eccl 9.11)
The signal was given by the tour guide to his assistant. Immediately the vast cavern was encased in darkness, after a hidden a switch was flipped. The lack of light was palpable, almost weighted if you will. Not sure how one feels the darkness, but feel it we did. At that moment the opened eye was straining to gather in all the light that it could, but to no avail.
It only lasted for a few moments, but time appeared to stand still. Several things rushed through my mind all at once. Wave after wave of thought hit me. Sorrow, loneliness, separateness, and other such emotions seemed possible for the one found trapped in such a situation. As I mulled over such things, I murmured to myself, but slightly louder than I had intended: “This must be close to what it feels like….”
The lights were turned back on…the sensation of light coming out of the darkness forcing the separation between seeing and unseeing, and I finished my musing “…when a person is cast into outer darkness. The source of their gnashing teeth….” The comment came to my listening ears, “Oh my…the doctrine of death!” This from my sister Rachel whose family was on vacation with my own in Arkansas last summer (2019).
Over the years I have noticed—this is not unique, I am sure—that we go to great lengths avoiding the subject of death. I watched a clip the other day where Keanu Reeves was asked on a late-night talk show what he thought happened when we die. His response avoided the question altogether. He said that people who love us will miss us. The host shook his hand and the studio audience oohed, awed and offered their applause. (As seen below.)
We don’t like thinking about death. To think that our lives are short, that they are as prominent as the dew in the morning or the fog upon a lake when touched by the sun’s rays, is troubling. It disturbs us to consider that our lives can be snuffed out in an instant…without a moment’s notice. And yet, the reality is this:
“Man[kind] is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow” (Psa 144.4)
Though my sister was teasing me for what I suppose she thought was a melodramatic moment, the reality is our days are numbered. And, nothing we can do will add another moment to the time afforded to us. For it is God who as established them:
“In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12.10).
“Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you [O God], and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass” (Job 14.5).
We are prone to forget such things. We want to forget such things. And our adversary the Devil surely does not want us to recall the brevity of our lives. Rather, he is pleased that we fool ourselves into living for the moment with no consideration of what the day might bring. It is no wonder that, we like Mr. Reeves, would rather subvert the question being daily asked of us.
“Daily?” you say. “How so?”
Have you truly looked at the world around you with closed eyes? Is it possible to miss the message painted throughout all of nature? Every summer I am reminded of the horror of death as my nostrils are filled with ripened road kill. Our property’s little forest is littered with decay; fallen trees, rotting leaves, and withered flowers. How many loved ones, how many friends have gone before us into the brink?
Often times you will hear statements like “you can’t outrun death,” or “time will eventually get you,” “you will feel its cold bite.” How easy it is to give death and the grave life like qualities. Though some might argue that this is mere poeticism, I disagree. It is the way that we sinners want to massage our troubled consciences. It is not “time” or “death” that comes for you, but your Creator. He will have His day. There will be a reckoning.
Such thoughts are too troubling. Who can accept them? Better to believe our lives are accidents born of purposelessness, utterly meaningless, than to face the reality of our having been created. Better that than to think of accountability, of responsibility, for how we have spent our lives on this earth. Jesus said something to this effect as well:
“…I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample good laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God [says]…, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12.19b-21).
Now you say to me, “But this is a warning to the rich man, to the selfish, to those who only care about themselves. You are taking it out of context to apply this to anyone else.”
In response I would ask the following: “Who do you consider with the time allotted to you? Do you think of HE who created you, who gives you breath, who provides you wealth and time? Where are your treasures? Are they in Him or they in yourself? Are you merely a fatted calf being readied for the slaughter? Do you see life as a pleasure cruise that is meant to give you every delectable that your little heart can muster…or do your thoughts, words, and actions lend credibility to the contrary?”
Sadly far too many people are too self-absorbed to be worrisome about whether or not they are pleasing the Lord of Glory. God says, “Be fruitful and multiply,” and unbelieving thought says, “I can’t have children, I still want to live.” As if having children hinders living; rather than making it more robust. God says, “Be content with what you have received,” and unbelieving hearts are never satisfied constantly desiring more.
Do I say this pridefully? Do I look at the rest of humanity and say in my own “self-righteousness” tsk, tsk, tsk. No, the reason for my comments in the darkened cavern and in this post are the same—concern.
I appreciate the reminder of death around me, because it keeps me humble. These reminders point me to one who can give meaning to my life even in death. Such reminders, prick me in my wayward heart to be concerned about the things of God…about His Glory, and not my own. Likewise, being reminded of death emboldens me and drives my passion for that which is lost.
My life is a blessing, because I am aware of the reality that awaits us all. Each day is a gift. Each breath, a miracle. Each relationship, a blessing. Each sample of food and drink, and other leisure activities that I might participate in after a hard day’s work, a pleasure. I am content with the life I have been given, and I try to be mindful of thanking my Creator, my Lord and Deliverer, each and every day. I am confident that He who delivered me from my sin is also able to deliver others, but my heart goes out to those who live in and love their deception for in the end the sorrowful torment of darkness awaits.
“I am the resurrection and the life,” said the Lord Jesus, “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he life, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11.25-26).
 This post uses the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible throughout.