The knowledge of death brings a certain clarity to life. Coming close to death makes the beauty of life and the reality of eternity stand out in stark, blazing colors.
Several weeks ago, Jen and I were driving on the highway in the midst of a snowstorm. We were traveling at an appropriately slow speed, crawling along, simply trying to make it home. But sometimes driving slow isn’t enough. The laws of physics can do serious damage, no matter how slow you are going. As we went around a turn, our van began to simultaneously slide sideways and drift toward the median. We slid until we were perpendicular to the road, then hopped up onto the median, and ground to a stop on top of the concrete median. We were in such a position that we easily could have been hit by cars coming eather direction.
But we didn’t get hit. And we didn’t blow out a tire or rupture a fuel line. God had sovereignly arranged the traffic patterns of the night in such a way that when we lost control, no one was there to hit us. We were able to pull back onto the highway and drive home.
As we drove home, we loudly gave thanks to God for sparing our lives. We could have died, leaving our three little girls with no parents. When we got home, we hugged our girls tight and kissed them and simply delighted in them. We rejoiced in the wonderful gift called life. Yes, our girls can be crazy and whiny and refuse to poop on the toilet. Yes, our girls can push us to the breaking point. But when you come face to face with death, everything else seems inconsequential.
Why do brushes with death have such a positive impact on me? In Psalm 90, Moses wrote:
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)
Getting close to death reminds me that my days are numbered. My life is painfully short. A mist. A vapor. I have a few, short years on this earth. A few short years to cram full of love for God and love for others. A few short years to treasure Jesus, treasure Jen, and treasure my kids. Spinning out on the highway gives me a heart of wisdom. It reminds me of what is important and what my priorities should be.
I would be wise to consider death more often. To number my days. To remember the brevity of my life. I’m not trying to be morbid or overly fixated on death. I don’t want to live my life gripped by fear. But remembering my impending death also helps me to live more fully.
When was the last time you considered death?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to dispense some hugs.
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Stephen Altrogge serves as a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, PA, where his main duties include leading worship, preaching, and working with youth. He also has written a number of worship songs that have been included on Sovereign Grace Music albums. Stephen is the author of the book Game Day For the Glory of God: A Guide For Athletes, Fans, and Wannabes, published by Crossway Books in September 2008, and The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence, published by Crossway Books in April 2011. When not shining his dad’s shoes, you can find Stephen drinking coffee or playing video games.
Find out more when you visit his blog, The Blazing Center.