Life Is Short

By John Quek

Is life short or is it that time appears to fly too quickly?

Remembering my younger days is still not too difficult. They are so vividly etched onto the many pages of my mind despite the greying of the grey matters as I age.

Life was different then.

Travelling was more inconvenient. There were more bicycles than cars and added to the fact that there were no highways, travelling time took longer with bicycles. On bicycles, one was prone to being robbed. Today we are sheltered from the scorching sun and the drenching rain by our four-wheels. Travelling time is shorter. However, the danger of being hit by an irresponsible driver whose hands and eyes are on the mobile phone instead of the road is so real.

Owning a television was a luxury. Only the privileged had the black and white machine in wooden designed boxes. Whether watching it in your living room or through the window of your neighbour’s living room (never mind the mosquitoes), life came to a standstill when key programmes were aired via RTM. Today, owning a television is a given. We do not need to depend on this machine anymore for entertainment. We now go virtual through computers, tablets, and smartphones. The philosophy of ‘anytime and anywhere’ makes it convenient for us. But have all these modern conveniences help us in managing our time well? Or have they made us more occupied?

Whether life is at a slow pace as before or bustling as it is today, the distractions are real and many such diversions often take away our focus from God. When we are young, strong and feeling invincible, three areas in our lives we often give less importance to are planning with God in mind, reading the bible and prayer. 

There are no worries that life would end when you are a teenager; death seemed too far away to be of concern.

Seldom did I learn to appreciate the reminder that life is short and the advice to make good use of my time: “Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). Never did this sink in when you think you could fly like a bird and are as strong as an ox.

The recent passing of dear friends and loved ones now opens up thoughts on what lies ahead and has given me a better perspective. There are many scriptures in the bible that talk about how short life can be and reading these bible verses like Psalms 39 has become even more meaningful now that there are some familiar faces I see no more. 

It is worthwhile to open those pages for reflection as LIFE IS SHORT. 

David just like his son, Solomon, recognising that life is short, tried to redeem his time by acknowledging his guilt and sin, repenting before the Maker and the Judge before he passed on. He penned Psalms 39 upon realising that life is brief:

I said, “I will guard my ways, That I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle, While the wicked are in my presence.” 

I was dumb and silent, I refrained even from good; And my sorrow grew worse. 

My heart was hot within me; While I was musing the fire burned; Then I spoke with my tongue: 

“LORD, make me to know my end, And what is the extent of my days, Let me know how transient I am. 

“Behold, Thou hast made my days as handbreadths, And my lifetime as nothing in Thy sight, Surely every man at his best is a mere breath

“Surely every man walks about as a phantom; Surely they make an uproar for nothing; He amasses riches, and does not know who will gather them.

“And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in Thee. 

“Deliver me from all my transgressions; Make me not the reproach of the foolish. 

“I have become dumb, I do not open my mouth, Because it is Thou who hast done it. 

“Remove Thy plague from me; Because of the opposition of Thy hand, I am perishing. 

“With reproofs Thou dost chasten a man for iniquity; Thou dost consume as a moth what is precious to him; Surely every man is a mere breath.

“Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry; Do not be silent at my tears; For I am a stranger with Thee, A sojourner like all my fathers. 

“Turn Thy gaze away from me, that I may smile again, Before I depart and am no more.” 

Psa 39 (NASB)

When I was young, plans were made and dreams were sculptured in my mind. God was there but in a distance, failing to remember Proverb 19:21 reminding readers that “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails”. Everything seemed fine and there was limited room for our Heavenly Father who cares for us.

Do reminders such as, “Is your life so harried that you’re not reading the Bible?” or “Don’t say God has been silent when your Bible has been closed” prick our conscience as to how many daily doses of spiritual food we consume in the midst of our busy life? How often have we forgotten in fleeting moments of indulgence to give time to Bible reading?

The Thessalonians were encouraged to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17) but often we cease to pray even when we most need to.

We might forget about the need for praying and reading the scriptures when we are strong and healthy, and have little concerns for money. We might make our own plans devoid of God in the picture. We might have very little dependence on Him. 

In such moments, let us all realise that time cannot be bought or redeemed. This is opposed to the meaning of “redeeming the time because the days are evil” in Eph. 5:16 (KJV) which means making the most of our time, when we are to make a conscious effort to choose the right things to do. 

Let us not realise this only when it is too late for us to make amends. We need to pause in the frenzy of activities and busyness in our lives to appreciate the importance and presence of God in our lives, and what it would be without Him. 

We must be prepared until such time when we can say “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7) for LIFE IS SHORT.