The last time I checked, the ratio of deaths to people is 1:1. In light of that reality, I have a question. How can a person die satisfied with life?
That question arose in my recent reading of Genesis 25:8 which describes the death of Abraham as follows: “And Abraham breathed his last, and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life (emphasis added); and he was gathered to his people.”(NASB)
Answers to my question are like death – one per person. For example, in his book The Match: The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever, Mark Frost tells of golfer Harvie Ward (1925-2004), whose infamy was more from his days as an amateur than as a professional. Ward was known for playing in an historic private match in 1956 with fellow amateur Ken Venturi against two of golf’s greatest players, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan. At Ward’s funeral in 2004 a friend eulogized him this way: “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body. But rather, to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming…’WOW what a ride.’” His friend’s eulogy suggests how Harvie Ward would have answered my question.
How does one die “satisfied with life?”
Let me offer some thoughts:
- Choose meaning that matters most.
All “meaning” in life is not created equal. For example, meaning found in “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you may die” does not have near the same value as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.” How can you choose meaning that matters? Invest in things of eternity, not temporal things. Invest in your own eternity through a personal, intimate walk with God. Invest in the eternity of others – your family, your friends, even total strangers - by helping them develop their own walk with God. Fame, fortune, power, and pleasure are temporal and will be left at death’s door. Only people will live forever. Choose to invest in people.
- Choose to live meaningfully right up to the very end.
I have a friend who has always said of his life, “I want to die at an old age with things left on my To Do list.” In contrast, some people choose to live as author Warren Wiersbe describes: “When they look back, it is with regret; when they look ahead it is with fear; when they look around it is with complaint.” Meaningful living is a series of good choices all the way to the end of life.
- Remove fear from death.
How is that done? With a stiff upper lip? With denial or defiance? No. By making sure heaven is in your future. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 describes the removal of fear from death like this: “O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NASB)
A man whose life captured the essence of what I am saying was the Apostle Paul. Near the end of his life he said, “…the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day….” (2 Timothy 4:6-8 NASB).
To die satisfied with life, one must live satisfied with life.
About the Author
Jerry Long is a retired minister [38 years] living in metro Greenville, SC. He and his wife Lynne have two daughters and three grandchildren. He holds degrees from Clemson University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.