We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day;
night is coming when no one can work.
While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.
Hiram and I are back from visiting family in Arizona. The weather was perfect, and knowing we’d escaped the sub-zero temperatures in Iowa made it feel even better. Part way through the week, my sister and I road-tripped to southern California to visit an elderly relative. I’ll spare you the description of our barefoot walk on a sunny beach in January the morning after we arrived, and skip straight to Muriel, the elderly relative.
She’s 87, sharp as a tack, and an amateur historian who has researched and compiled the story of her grandfather (my great-great-grandfather) during the Civil War. But, her sight is failing rapidly, as is her stamina and mobility. All three of us knew this might be our last visit together, so our hugs were extra long and hard when we said good-bye. Muriel was still waving when our car turned the corner. Leaving her was hard, but she is a woman of deep faith, not afraid of walking through the door from this life into the next.
The Monday after Hiram and I returned to cold and snowy Iowa, an email arrived from a friend in a nearby town. She’s also a writer, and I thought she was confirming the let’s-talk-about-writing coffee date we’d scheduled. Instead, this active, fit mom of three boys (ages 8–13) wrote to cancel because she had just been diagnosed with cancer. She and her husband hoped to know more after meeting with the doctor later in the week. Her note ended with these words. “We’re trying to just do the normal life things, and trust that God knows what he’s doing. I don’t doubt him. I really don’t. I don’t like what he’s doing, but I don’t doubt him.”
The tears that never came while saying good-bye to Muriel fell hard and fast after hearing from my young, talented, and very dear friend. My heart broke for her husband, for her sons, for the fight she faces, and for the words she will not be writing during her treatment. Even though my friend and I are certain of the glory waiting for her if she loses her fight, I am praying she will live to see her boys become men and husbands and fathers, and to experience the joy of being a grandma before she walks through that door.
Like Muriel and my young friend, I don’t doubt what God is doing. I know that though his thoughts are not my thoughts and his ways are not my ways, he can be trusted. I know we pay more attention to God’s voice when health fails and life grows short. We better understand his truths when we realize our days on this earth are numbered. The work he has for us to do on this side of death’s door will end.
When death draws near for those we love, we finally comprehend the truth God whispers into the ears of all his children. “Work as long as it is day. Night is coming when no man can work.” As we cry out to him in our grief and through our tears, we realize that our time on earth is precious and finite. And we redouble our efforts and redeem the time by doing his work with passion and purpose. Until the day he calls each of us to walk through the door of this world into the next.
“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife,
for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus,
for he will save his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1: 20–21
A few weeks ago, we celebrated an early Christmas with our grandkids: a 3-year-old boy, an 11-month-old girl, and an 8-month-old boy. As you can imagine, the celebration was loud. And lively. By the end of the festivities, the grandparents were begging for naps. Not so the wee ones. They vigorously objected to the prospect with all their hearts. Their parents needed every ounce of cunning and endurance, along with every lullaby in their repertoires, until the grands fell under the Sandman’s spell.
Without their parents’ concern for their welfare and safety, our beautiful grandchildren were clueless. On their own, they couldn’t choose what was good for them. They were completely vulnerable. Totally dependent on the kindness and compassion of the adults who love them.
As I watched, a thought popped into my head. “God, what were you thinking when you sent the Savior of the world–the One appointed to save us from our sins–to earth as a baby who’s life depends upon the goodness of a teen mom and a reluctant dad?”
Scripture clearly states that this was God’s plan. More than once, the Bible says that the baby born to Mary was the Savior. On the other hand, God’s Word doesn’t explicitly explain why He made such a plan.
However, the New Testament showcases vulnerable people. Jesus’ ministry is a veritable hit parade of vulnerability: children, the poor, lepers, widows, the blind, the lame, the disfigured, the mentally ill, the disenfranchised, the oppressed, the elderly, the dying.
The Savior of the world never condemned the vulnerable people he encountered. He never looked down on them. Instead, he healed them. He loved them. In John 9:1–3, Jesus announced that vulnerability is not an accident. Rather, it is part of the Father’s sovereign plan.
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents,
but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:1–3
With those word, God spoke value and purpose into the life of every person, even the most compromised. Those words are a call for us to affirm the value of every life. God calls us to be like Mary and Joseph. To get our hands dirty, even when affirming life is difficult. God’s call may look different for each of us. One person may counsel and support unwed mothers. Another may work in the church nursery or teach children’s Sunday school. Some families may pursue adoption. Others may visit with the elderly at the nursing home. Some may devote their days to the care of their children with disabilities or aging parents.
Like Mary and Joseph, we are all called to value life. When a teen mother and a reluctant father obeyed God’s call, redemption came to a fallen world. What could happen when you heed God’s call? Today’s a good day to find out.