Making the Most of Time in End-of-Life Matters
It’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining, and the temperature is in the upper sixties. Spring in Wisconsin can be unpredictable. Today’s taste of summer might be followed by a reminder that winter is still visible in the rear view mirror. How will I make the most of this fine spring day? I could dust off the clubs and sneak in a round of golf. Today also happens to be the home opener for the local Major League team. Too bad I didn’t plan ahead and get tickets for the game.
Making the most of our time becomes an art form in this hectic and fast-paced world: perhaps more science than art as we formulate the best plan for using our time efficiently. We struggle with to-do lists that demand more hours than we have to give. The media reminds us of our dilemma by reporting on the epidemic sleep deprivation that afflicts our busy nation. One unexpected curve ball (my mind is still on baseball), and the whole schedule falls apart. How will I make the most of today? Good question.
Making Proper Use of Time to Reflect God’s Glory
What motivates us as we make the most of God’s gift of time? After all, what we make time for says something about who we are. Does our use of time reflect the fact that we are God’s very own? The Apostle Paul reminds us that “we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:13,14). Our stewardship of time is an opportunity to do what is good.
When a family member faces the end of life it places a daunting demand on our schedule. How will we meet the challenge? The world has a solution to the problem, and it can sound pretty good – yet sounding good doesn’t make it good. The world’s solution sounds like this: it’s not only good, it’s also loving to hasten life’s end and alleviate physical suffering. The fact that it can solve some of our time problems is an added benefit. What could be wrong with that? Plenty. This line of thought is characterized as a “slippery slope” – and for good reason. It’s not a place where God’s very own want to be.
Caring for Others in an Unbelieving World
God’s will in end-of-life matters does not make sense to the unbelieving world. This should come as no surprise. After all, the message of the cross that we hold so dear is foolishness to the unbeliever (1 Corinthians 1:18). The message of the cross guides us as we face the end of life. The situation at hand is a blessing for both the caregiver and the one being cared for. A Christian’s faith is strengthened in all of life’s trials – even in the grief we suffer at life’s end. “These [trials] have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7). Did you catch the connection with the passage from Titus? We wait for the blessed hope. We wait for Jesus to be revealed. During that time God’s very own do what is good and, as a result, praise, glory and honor are given to the One who gave His life for us. Christ is not glorified when our actions are contrary to His word. Neither is Christ glorified by inaction when we choose not to show love and concern for those around us.
Feelings of guilt may gnaw at us because we fail to make the most of the time during a family member’s last days. True comfort comes in knowing that all our failings were paid for at the cross. For Jesus’ sake we are forgiven for sins of inaction or decisions that were not in keeping with God’s will for life. We are not God’s own because of what we have done for Him, but because of what Christ has done for us. True comfort indeed!
Recognizing God’s Sovereignty Over Life
How will you make the most of the time a loved one has remaining? At the outset I spoke of the wonderful opportunity that a fine spring day presents to us. The opportunity we see in an end-of-life situation is also wonderful. Through the tears we care for a loved one and testify to God’s will for life. We protect and preserve God’s gift of life using the resources and means He has given. We recognize and yield to God’s sovereignty over life when He decides to call our loved one home. As God’s very own we make the most of the time, eager to do what is good. To God be the glory!
Tim Snyder is the Media Services Director at Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, WI.
April 26, 2021
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September 18, 2020