“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow...” – James 4:14
How true is this statement.
We think we know what tomorrow will bring. But in reality, we have no clue.
Four weeks ago today my healthy, energetic 13 year-old son, Eli, got back from a weekend Middle School guy’s retreat with our church youth group. As you can imagine, it was a weekend full of pranks, junk food, paint ball, little sleep, tons of laughter, and some great men of God pouring into my son and other young men, helping them grow closer to Jesus.
Without going into great detail, Eli came home having had an absolute blast. The weekend was an amazing experience for him. But as soon as he got home, he mentioned that he was feeling very tired and that his stomach hurt. After not giving it much thought through the afternoon and evening, my wife ended up taking him to the doctor the next day as his stomach pain continued to increase.
We had assumed that perhaps he was having an appendicitis or possibly battling some constipation. As you can imagine, we entered into the nightmare of our life just hours later when after an MRI we were told our son had cancer. And a very aggressive, growing cancer at that.
When the doctor was delivering the news to my wife and I, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My stomach sank. Panic immediately set in. Was this a bad dream? Could this really be happening? To my sweet son?
I was paralyzed by fear. Fear of the unknown that lay ahead. Fear for my son, and for my family.
James says, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow...”
I now understand the truthfulness of these words more than ever. But here’s the truth. I’m not sure that any of us, until we experience real tragedy or suffering of some kind, truly “get” what James is saying here. This is a verse we can easily read over and over and not fully grasp, whether we realize it or not.
“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow...”
We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. We really don’t. It is a mystery. And friends, as much as we control freaks hate to admit it, there is A LOT of mystery in this life. This is how God has designed things. There are many things, in fact I would argue most things, that only God knows.
He is in control. We are not.
Think about your own life for a minute.
Isn’t it crazy to think about your life? All of the things you have gone through, both good and bad, sweet and sour, joyful and difficult.
Today is my birthday. I turned 42 today.
I feel like I was 22, yesterday. Heck, I feel like I was 12, yesterday. Seriously.
In talking with my family tonight and reflecting on my favorite birthday memories, it is crazy to think about how fast time has flown by. So many twists and turns, ups and downs in the story of my life.
But through it all, the Lord has been with me. Every step of every day, the Lord has been with me. More than that, He has been my steady guide, even though I have often determined to go my own way.
How true are the words of Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of man plans his way,but the Lord establishes his steps.”
The Lord is the only One who knows what is next. He alone knows what the future holds.
James goes on in chapter 4:14 and says,
“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”
James says our life is like a mist.
This makes me think of growing up in Casper, Wyoming. There were many, many days in Casper when I would walk to Verda James Elementary School, half frozen. I mean it was cold. Really, really cold. So cold, that now I’m shocked my parents, or any parents for that matter, were legally allowed to let (or force ;) their children to walk to school. I guess it is these early morning winter walks that make kids “Wyoming Tough.”
What I remember on many of these frigid walks to school is watching by breath. It was so cool to watch. I would breathe out and it was like a huge cloud of smoke flew out of my mouth and into the air. And as quickly as it appeared, it was gone. One second it was there, and then it disappeared.
This is the kind of “mist” James has in mind in verse 14. This mist is our life.
Our life is a mist.
It appears. And then it is gone.
One of the greatest dangers in our culture is that there is no concern or talk about how short life really is. Many of us live our lives as though we will be here forever.
Friends, the Bible is clear. God is clear. This life is a “mist.” It is like my breath on a cold Wyoming morning. Here one second and gone the next.
So, my question is this: What are you doing with your one life? Your life that is but a mist?
What are you living for? What are you known for? At your funeral one day, what will people say about you?
Our life is a mist.
Friends, the reality is that this life is not all there is. In fact, this life is but a moment of preparation for eternity. More specifically, for those who are in Christ, who have surrendered to Jesus as Lord and Savior, this life is but a moment of preparation for eternity in heaven with God.
When we understand this, that this life is not all there is, that in fact this life is really just a blip on the radar screen of eternity, a mist that quickly disappears, when we understand this, it does something to us.
It gives us right and appropriate perspective.
In particular, it gives us right and appropriate perspective when it comes to the pain, suffering, and tragedy that comes at us in this life.
Like when out of the blue you find out your sweet boy has cancer.
As hard as this life can be, as difficult as it is to go through the many trials we face, this life is not all there is. Eternity awaits. Heaven is real. For the Christian, this gives us hope and even joy in the midst of pain, in the midst of confusion, in the midst of a life filled with all kinds of mystery we will never fully understand.
But remember this. While we don’t know what tomorrow will bring us in this life, we do know what eternity will bring for those who are in Christ. Eternal life! Eternal joy! No more pain, no more tears, no more cancer!
How I long for it! How about you?
Listen to these promises from God’s Word to us…
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.– John 3:16
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”– Romans 10:13
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.– Romans 6:23
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.– Romans 8:38-39
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”– Revelation 21:3-4
While we may not know what tomorrow will bring, if we really want to live the rest of our days the way God created us to live them, we must live everyday with forever in view.
With eternity in view.
With Jesus in view.
With heaven in view.
This world is not all there is. And how thankful I am that this is true.
We are but a mist.