"It's a strange thing to realize and accept your mortality at 26 years young. It's just one of those things you ignore. The days tick by and you just expect they will keep on coming. Until the unexpected happens."
This is how a dying woman's letter to the world begins.
Holly Butcher was from Grafton, in New South Wales, Australia. She was an athlete, representing her state in squash and hockey. But she developed Ewing sarcoma, an extremely rare form of cancer, and died last week.
Her family then posted her letter on Facebook. It is making global headlines today.
Holly notes that life is "fragile, precious and unpredictable and each day is a gift, not a given right." She advises us to "work to live, don't live to work" and to "do what makes your heart feel happy."
She realizes that time spent on small frustrations–"You might have got caught in bad traffic today, or had a bad sleep because your beautiful babies kept you awake, or your hairdresser cut your hair too short"–is time wasted: "I swear you will not be thinking of those things when it is your turn to go."
And she notes that life is not in our control: "I don't want to go. I love my life. I am happy . . . I owe that to my loved ones. But the control is out of my hands." However, this is in our control: "Tell your loved ones you love them every time you get the chance and love them with everything you have."
Facing death can bring great clarity to life.
Two men who "walked with God"
I have been thinking recently about Enoch, a man who "walked with God, and he was not, for God took him" (Genesis 5:24). According to the English Standard Version Study Bible, "walked" translates a Hebrew verb that "conveys a sense of an ongoing intimacy with God."
What does it mean to "walk with God" in this way?
A few verses later we read, "Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God" (Genesis 6:9). "Righteous" translates a Hebrew word meaning to be "just" or "have a just cause." "Blameless" translates a different Hebrew word meaning to be "complete, intact, whole."
Taken together, they tell us that Noah focused every dimension of his life on the highest purpose for his life. As a result, he "walked" with God–the text uses the same Hebrew term as with Enoch.
The Lord could therefore use Noah to build an ark that would save humanity. Only a person whose entire life was centered on God's call could be trusted with such an undertaking.
And God could commission him to warn the world that divine judgment was coming (2 Peter 2:5). Only a person of great integrity could preach of judgment without being rejected for personal failings.
The Golden Globes and biblical morality
Today, we find ourselves in Noah's position. Scripture teaches that judgment is coming to our world as surely as it came to Noah's world:
• "The world is passing away along with its desires" (1 John 2:17).
• "The heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly" (2 Peter 3:7).
• "All people will "give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead" (1 Peter 4:5).
In the meantime, we must take up Noah's calling to "warn the world of God's righteous judgment" (2 Peter 2:5 NLT).
For instance, at last night's Golden Globes, The Handmaid's Tale was named "Best Television Series." While I will not see the show due to its offensive and sexually explicit nature, I am saddened by its "vicious assault on Christian beliefs." Big Little Lies, another sexually explicit television series, won numerous Golden Globes as well.
Our culture deserves biblical truth about our moral trajectory. But we must live the truth we proclaim.
A thought experiment
As Holly Butcher learned, tomorrow is promised to no one. However, my goal this morning is not to frighten you but to encourage you: God has given you another day to align your life with its highest purpose.
To that end, let's close with a thought experiment: Imagine that, like Holly, you knew that your last day on earth was coming soon. Can you say that, like Noah, your entire life is centered on God's purpose for you?
If not, what would you change today?
First published at Denison Forum.