I just got back from making a hospital visit to a wonderful Christian lady who recently celebrated her 90th birthday. I have known and loved Lucille for many years and it made me sad to see her lying there in that hospital bed. I teased her and we talked about old times and we discussed our families. Then I read several passages of Scripture and prayed with her while holding her hand. Before I left she asked me: "Michael, why is the Lord making me live so long? Is He punishing me? I just want to go home." She said, "People keep telling me that I need to eat but I have no appetite and no interest in food. They make me drink liquids with nasty tasting stuff in it because they say it will be good for me. I've lived for 90 years. Now I'm tired and just want to go home to Heaven."
I must confess that I had a hard time finding fault with her logic. All I could come up with is the fact that the Lord is both the Giver of life and also the One who determines when we have finished our course down here. It is not for us to shorten our life either actively (by suicide) or passively (i.e. by giving up mentally and emotionally, refusing to eat and drink, etc.). Our job is to keep on keeping on until the Lord calls us home in His own good time. Even though we don't always understand why He does what He does, we can rest assured that He knows what He is doing and His timing is perfect.
On the other hand, I can understand Lucille's frustration. When I was young life was exciting and I felt like I had everything to live for. Heaven seemed very far off and not the least bit interesting. Now that I'm a little older I'm beginning to see through different eyes, different values. Lucille knows more people in Heaven than she does down here. Her husband is there, and both of her parents. Most of her closest friends are already with the Lord. She lives in one room in an adult foster home where she seldom sees people she knows. She's lonely and she hurts all over. What does she have to live for here? Not much. I wasn't about to say that to her, but I can sure understand why she feels the way she does.
God has wired us up to cling tenaciously to life. He put into us the will to live. However, there finally comes a time when the sand shifts and Heaven seems very near and very desirable. I think that is His doing as well, to get us prepared for the "big move."
The greatest reality is not physical life on planet earth. The greatest reality is eternal life with God. He has made us eternal beings and has placed eternity in our hearts. Compared to the eons of time in eternity, the seventy or so years we spend here getting ready for Heaven is no more that a blip on the screen. James 4:14 describes our life this way: "You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away." Psalm 144:4 says, "Man is like a mere breath; his days are like a passing shadow." Breath, vapor, smoke, mist... all things that cannot be grabbed, cannot be held onto. So why do we get so exercised over the idea of death?
We had a dear lady in our church who lived to be 106. Alice died shortly before her 107th birthday. I used to go visit her and she would always ask me the same question Lucille asked today: "Why is the Lord making me live so long?" Except for some arthritis Alice was in great shape. But she was perplexed and somewhat put out that the Lord wouldn't let her go home. She felt that she was past her pull date but God wouldn't take her off the shelf, even though she thought she was of no further use to anyone.
It finally comes down to trust. When we can't understand or explain why God does what He does we have a choice. We can shake our fists at Him and get angry, or we can draw near to Him and trust that He has a plan, even though He hasn't shown it to us yet. Trusting Him is not always easy, but it is definitely the way to go.