While reading through Christmas letters from family and friends, thoughts came to mind of how life events are mostly unpredictable. I didn’t predict this year’s heart problems, two major threats in the lives of my two brothers, nor the two joyful weddings in our family this summer. I planned a few things, yet only a small percentage of those plans came to fruition.
The letters also tell of joy and tragedy, memorable vacations and illness, family highlights and dark places. While all enjoyed the good things, no one expected or wanted those negatives.
Today’s devotional reading reminds me that planning may be important, but must be done with the will of God and the unpredictability of life firmly in mind.
You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:14–17)
Hindsight makes it easy to understand this passage. The older I get, the shorter life seems. I’ve noticed an increasing tendency to try to fill it with as much as possible because I don’t know if I’ll have time to finish this or do that. Yet God speaks. He wants me to consider Him, the One who created time. He also wants me to make sure I do what He puts on my heart, all those “right things” that come to me — in glaring truth or by those small nudges from the Holy Spirit.
Yesterday, I followed my own advice about “doing the next thing” because God always nudges me with that inner sense of knowing what should be done next. Much was accomplished and all of it in the category of “the right thing to do.” At the end of the day, I felt as if I’d accomplished something yet none of it was from my ‘preferred’ list. This shows me that my will has a ways to go before it is totally lined up with His will.
Besides the daily stuff, my thoughts, as are the minds of many, have been centered on the people of Newtown, Connecticut. The pain of their shock spills into our hearts. No one knew what last Friday would bring. I doubt none “boasted” arrogantly about their safety. This was supposed to be a normal day. It was not.
Their horrible experience makes most of us feel wary and even testy about uncertainty. Such an event makes sensitive souls ask things like, When I go out the door, will I come home again? When I go to bed at night, will I wake up in the morning? What would I do it a shooter came into the mall while I’m shopping? What would I do if that shooter was my relative or my friend? What would I do if the victims were members of my family?
These are not thoughts of faith. Nevertheless, they pop in like intruders during a season when joy should be the norm. I want my head to be full of Christmas carols and holiday plans, not funerals with little caskets and the reminder that life is a mist that appears for such a little time.
God still urges me to do the next thing. Today, it might be wrap those gifts, or make sure the pantry is stocked, or write that letter, or call that person, or pray for — pray for the hundreds and thousands who weep in the darkness and have not the comfort of God’s promises nor His great power to hold their hearts in serenity, even when their lives have been shattered.
No, I do not know what tomorrow or even today will bring. Life is a like a mist. My anchor is the will of God, not because of what events that might bring, but because of who He is and what He has already done to prove that He wants the eternal best for His children.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Mist or not, life is short and most of it is unfair. For some, life is filled with pain and sorrow. But it is short. After it is over, He offers the promise of eternal life — where there is no more death and sorrow, and all tears will be wiped away.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31–39)