We grow up reading fairy tales where the story always ends, “and they lived happily ever after.” But as you grow up, reality is often harsh. In junior high school, kids tease everybody, including you. In high school, you don’t make the basketball team, even though you assumed a few years earlier that you would some day become a pro. The people you want to date, who you think would be a perfect match for you, don’t think you’re “cool enough” to date.
Your parents, whom you assumed knew practically everything and were in love with each other forever, get a divorce. Then one of them takes their depression out on you and the other on your brother.
You go to college with a little dignity and try to be among the minority of students who don’t cheat. Painful things you didn’t anticipate happen in your dating relationships.
Finally, you meet the perfect guy or girl for you, who also happens to love you in return—or maybe you settle for the best you can get whom you don’t really love that deeply. You still have enough fairytale thinking in you to think you will live happily ever after, but marriage turns out to have a lot of painful interludes.
Have I depressed you yet? The worst is yet to come. Solomon said that apart from God, life is vain and painful and meaningless. Power is meaningless. Riches are meaningless. Sexual prowess is meaningless. Only a relationship with God and serving Him, loving and being loved by Him and by other humans with faults like yours, makes life have joy and meaning. And when we suffer the many losses we face as we get older, we need to grieve those losses with God and friends and GROW FROM THEM!
Heaven will be unbelievably great—greater than any fairy tale writer could ever imagine. Forever, those of us who have a relationship with Christ will be perfect and have joy unspeakable.
But in the meantime, we live in a world with death, taxes, diseases and lots of sin, even in ourselves. According to polls, 80% of Americans wish they had a different job and 80% wish they had a different mate. So if you love your job (or love retirement from it) and love whomever you married, you are in the lucky top 4% of Americans.
In Psalm 90, we read, “Seventy years are given to us! Some may even reach eighty. But even the best of these years are filled with pain and trouble: soon they disappear, and we are gone.” (NLT) Verse 12 says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may walk wisely on the earth.” (KJV)
My godly mother-in-law prayed for her family members every day—for their safety and well-being. One night she had a nightmare in which someone died in a car wreck. She didn’t know who died, but she thought it was one of her kids or one of their mates. So she decided to pray every day for a week for God to protect each of us from a car wreck. She never told any of us kids about her dream or special prayers, however.
On November 15, 1989, four days later, I was driving home from work, listening to the Bible consecutively, as I always do (and have since I was 10 years old, daily). I happened to be on Psalm 66, where verse 12 makes a strange statement saying something about men flying over our heads and God saving us from fire and from water. Just as I was puzzled about this verse, I got involved in a high-speed car wreck and my car flew up into the air, spinning around front to back. As I was spinning in the air, I felt at total peace and I thought, “Oh, this is what God has in store for me today.”
My car was destroyed like a squished can everywhere except the driver’s seat. I landed upside down on my roof and my seat belt kept me from hitting the top of my head on the pavement. I broke my window with my elbow and crawled out untouched. Men had flown over my head but God got me out of the car as it spewed fire and water.
That night I had one of my many “God dreams”. Jesus was in my dream and said, “Get that Bible cassette tape right now and listen to it until you get to a verse that hits you between the eyes.” So I woke up at 3 a.m. and got the tapes I brought out of my car when I crawled out my window. I got my Walkman and listened to the rest of Psalm 66, then 67, and on and on. Nothing “hit me between the eyes” until I got all the way to Psalm 90:12, “Teach us to number our days, that we may walk wisely on the earth.”
I told Jesus that from that day forward I would assume that I died in that car wreck on November 15, 1989 and assume that each day I live, troubles or not, was a gift from God to use for Him. I found out on November l6th that my mother-in-law had her own “God-dream” involving Psalm 90:12 on November 11th. This was no coincidence.
Every day now, even many years later, I wake up and pray the same brief four-fold prayer that I wrote the night of my accident and “God-dream”:
1. Lord, help me to become more like you today, especially to love and be loved as you loved and are loved.
2. Lord, help me to serve you today. Give me opportunities to show people how much you love them through the love you give me for them.
3. Lord, help me to learn and grow from whatever troubles come to me today. I expect troubles and losses. Any day that goes by without one is a bonus day.
4. Lord, help me to stay out of trouble today. You know I have lustful or other selfish thoughts every day of my life, so keep me from evil, so I won’t hurt anyone.
My godly mother at 94 years old lived alone and could still beat me in Dominoes. But she was getting very weak, had lots of aches and pains, and prayed daily that God would let her go home to Heaven to join my dad and her friends. Her parents both died of congestive heart failure at age 89. She would have too, except modern medicines keep her heart pumping barely strong enough. She told me shortly before she died, “Paul, I keep wondering why God won’t let me go home yet, but then yesterday I had a chance to tell an unsaved neighbor about how to have a relationship with Jesus, so I guess that’s why I’m still here.
SHE WAS RIGHT. (Please read Ecclesiastes 12).