Deathbed advice offers impact which no other advice provides.
My father died of cancer sixteen years ago. A few weeks before his death, knowing he would die soon, my father offered me advice.
As a long term pastor, my father counseled hundreds of men and women. He said that many of them lived their lives being controlled by their parents. They spent their lives avoiding their parents’ bad behavior.
My father was not an angel; he had an anger problem. He lost his temper over little events, like when he lost his keys (which he seemed to lose all the time!). He was concerned that his kids might waste their lives trying to avoid his anger issue. He advised me instead to spend my energy imitating the good things I saw in my parents and teachers and friends.
Then he said this: “If you spend your life trying not to be somebody you will spend your life not being somebody.”
We will never become ourselves by running from; we will only become our true selves by running to. If we turn our inner life into a vacuum—always removing things—our inner life will never become a thing of substance. It will always be empty.
My son David recently married “the girl next door” (almost literally), and the reception was at our house. The day before the wedding, my sons and I took an old porch swing from the barn and hung it from a large branch. A few days after the wedding, the branch broke and smashed the swing. The branch had looked solid, but it was rotten.
I am so grateful no one was resting on the swing when that branch broke.
While no one was hurt, the smashed swing caused me consider that one of the greatest risks of all may be where we rest our hearts.
Some of us find rest in success or career. When work goes well, our hearts find peace. But jobs are fragile branches. They cannot bear the weight of our lives.
Some of us find rest in family. When our kids are good or when our spouse loves us, our hearts find peace. But families are fragile branches. Our spouse may die (in fact, will die), and our children will make mistakes, and they too may suffer grave illness or death.
Some of us find rest in ministry. When our talks are loved and our blogs are read and people are converted, our hearts find peace. But ministry is a fragile branch. We can do everything right and not see fruit. Jesus did everything perfectly, and he was murdered.
Jeremiah 17:7 says: Blessed are they who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.
I think this verse says it is not enough to merely trust in the Lord. If we stop there, it can in fact be a huge mistake.
Some people seem naturally courageous, like their DNA was infused with risk at birth. And others seem born afraid of their shadows. Is this true? Are the courageous always courageous, and are the rest of us really scaredy cats?
Every person we meet has a deep, heart-level, fear; and at times fear paralyzes us.
What hope—and what help—do we have?
Risk is an inevitable element of life. We are daily bombarded by the need to make decisions, and many of these decisions involve risk. A few of us are huge risk takers but most of us prefer safety.
We avoid risk by making safe decisions. Or do we? Might the very nature of safe decisions create a greater risk than we ever imagined?