- Created on Wednesday, 01 June 2011 01:00
- Written by Richard Avery
Many of you know that my life was turned upside down early this Spring. After a routine operation, my sister's condition suddenly deteriorated and in 30 hours she died, despite the best efforts of the staff in intensive care. The operation itself went well, but Liz had a rare medical condition that neither she nor any of the family was aware of. It had fatal consequences in the aftermath of surgery.
Thank you for your prayers and condolences through this time. I am very grateful to be part of three caring Christian communities when plunged into a difficult and unexpected loss. Although Liz and I had a close relationship for much of our lives, the grief is far harder for my parents and her family. And some of you also have faced very tough losses. There is a dark side to grief that no amount of kindness, advice or consoling thoughts can remove. But life and death crises can remind us of what matters the most and encourage us to live well for whatever time God grants us.
Losing Liz has shown me how much I took her presence for granted (and that of others too). 'One day, when I no longer swamped with the demands of my parish responsibilities, we'll have plenty of time to talk together.' I assumed that both of us would live well into retirement and then there'd be lots of time to see each other. A reasonable assumption when you look at the longevity in my family, especially the women. However, these assumptions easily become presumptions. They can be blown away in an instant by an unexpected accident or illness.
When we lived in Canada I got to know a man in his thirties who had just been diagnosed with cancer. Jim was married with young children and led a busy life running his own fish farm business. He had little time for God, until the diagnosis ... And that led him to some serious re-evaluation of his life. He lived several hours' drive from my church but came to visit his parents in our town. He'd pop in to see me too and we talked and prayed together. The cancer went into remission and he outlived the expectations of the doctors. A year or so on Jim made a surprising comment:
'In some ways I'm grateful for this cancer. My life was very self-centred, preoccupied with growing the business, pushing God to the back-burner and spending little time with my children. Cancer brought me to a halt. Stopped the crazy lifestyle and forced me to think long and hard about what matters in life. Now I've come back to God and am spending proper time with my wife and children. I have faced the prospect of my death and am prepared for it. My bags are packed and ready. If God grants me a long life I'll be very grateful. But if not, I am at peace with myself, with my family and with God.'
For Jim this personal crisis helped him sort out his priorities and get right with God. Some of you may be over anxious about the future and too worried about the frailty of life. And the Bible does encourage us to trust in God, who clothes the lilies of the field, instead of being chewed up with worry. But many more of us are too caught up in the whirl of daily living to stop and think, or are lulled into a false sense of security by modern medicine, insurance policies and pension plans.
In Paul's 2nd letter to the Corinthians, he writes, "now is the time of God's favour, now is the day of salvation" (6:2). There is urgency to the opportunities God gives us. When he reveals his grace and his love and his purposes for us, now is the time to respond. Not 'tomorrow', not 'when I'm less busy', not 'when I'm retired', not 'when I'm feeling better', but NOW.