Ron and Barbara had been married for more than 40 years. Ron had worked as an electrical engineer.
Barb had served in the public school system as a special education teacher for over 30 years. And now, after seven decades of work between them both, after raising two children, and after saving and scrimping for their senior years – they finally decided to enjoy a well-earned retirement. Ron and Barb moved from their home in Modesto, California to their new retirement home here in Washington – to be closer to their children.
That was only a month ago. Within two weeks of moving into their new home, Ron was admitted to the hospital after suffering chest pain. A few days of observation followed. With no further symptoms, Ron expected to come home and help Barb finish unpacking. It was not to be.
Just a few hours before he was to be discharged, Ron suffered a massive heart attack. Twice he experienced cardiac arrest and twice he was resuscitated. But the lack of oxygen to his brain left him comatose and with no hope of recovery. By the early morning hours of the next day, Ron was dead. The cruelty of life had destroyed their retirement plans.
It’s a story I’ve heard many times – the best laid plans of mice and men go awry. I recall one of the great unsung heroes of WWII – General Joseph Stillwell, whose career spanned forty-two years. He received assignment to one of the most difficult and unglamorous tasks of the war in the India-China-Burma theater. Though upstaged by more colorful subordinates and undercut by leaders in Washington and among the Allies, Old “Vinegar Joe” held together his patchwork Army. He whipped the Japanese in what had to be the most unforgiving environment. Then, only one year after the war’s conclusion – while poised to retire in Monterey, California and looking forward to enjoying his remaining years with his wife – General Stillwell died following cancer surgery on his stomach. All those plans and dreams for his sunset years were unraveled by cancer.
Do you recall the words of James 4:13-16 about the best laid plans of men? The Scripture reads, “Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’ Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.”
We have no guarantees of material wealth and success in this life – except that God will guard our souls and supply our needs (Psalm 121; Jude 24-25; Philippians 4:19). This is why Jesus admonished us not to lay up treasures on earth nor fix our hopes only on this life. Rather our focus and hope should be in heaven (Matthew 6:19-25; Colossians 3:1-4). The Scripture informs us that this world and all its desires are passing away. But the one who seeks to do God’s will shall live forever in heaven (1 John 2:15-17).
Dear Father in heaven, help me to see the futility and foolishness of making plans without consulting You. Help me to understand the danger of storing up treasure in this life and giving no thought about the world to come. Please, dear God, help me to prepare for eternity by using my time, energy, and resources to serve You and my fellow human beings. Amen.
(Information from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Stilwell)