Envy the Youth
It is common for old-timers, a group in which I am solidly ensconced, to envy the strength and vitality of the youth. I envy the number of years they have ahead of them. I would love to do life over again, assuming I would know on the second pass through what I have learned through toil and trouble the first time along life’s journey.
But there is no guarantee of days. The “three score and ten” (Psalm 90:10) is an ideal, not an inviolable rule. And, standing on the far side of 70, I am thankful that there are exceptions. But there are exceptions on the lean side of 70 as well.
A few months ago, a wonderful friend died at the age of 49. Twenty-six years short of where I am right now. A wonderful family, a thriving business, sound financial position, good health…except for that cancer growing inside him.
This week, another friend died in a tragic accident at the age of 31. I admired him for many reasons: good bass singing voice, strong as a bull, athletic, mechanically minded, active in church work. But his days, according to Psalm 139, were known to the Lord before he made it out of the womb.
A year ago, if I were asked if I wanted to trade places with either of my friends, it would have been tempting to knock 20 to 50 years off my life and start over. But my envy would have been the literal death of me. I am 26 years older than one friend and 45 years older than the other—and still counting.
What is it about our life that makes us envy what others have, or better said, what they seem to have? Neither of those men saw fifty. I have been there, done that.
Is it number of days of the youth? Health? Wealth? Strength? Position? Career? Ministry? Or should I look at the life I have been born into and thank the Lord for it? Should I thank Him for the days I have been given, whether they be three score and fifteen (75), or one score and eleven (31)? Should I wish for the ministry of either of my friends? Or should I thank the Lord for whatever ministry He has given to me? I still have days to do that ministry. In what He has given, I must rejoice and be glad.
David’s words in Psalm 139 show the intimacy between God and His child. God, knowing while we are still in our mother’s womb, how many days our life will consist of. And David considers God’s knowledge as precious.
Psalms 139:13-18 KJV For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. (14) I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. (15) My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. (16) Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. (17) How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! (18) If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.
Compared to the strength and vitality of my younger friend, I am decrepit at best. But I am not in a wheelchair as is one of my high school friends. I am still able to go to work every day, which is better than some other, even younger friends. I don’t have as much wealth as some much younger than I, but I have enough.
How do I determine blessings? Do I look to others? Or do I look within? Do I envy the young, or am I thankful for the wonderful helpmeet that the Lord has given me? For the children who know the Lord? For the health to go to work every day and be somewhat productive? Had I changed places with my 31-year-old friend the day before he died in order to add length to my life, I would have made a poor deal.
Maybe both the young and the old look at life wrongly. The young look to tomorrow with its hopes and dreams. “It is tomorrow when I will begin a new project, start a new ministry, or check in on a loved one.” The old look at yesterday. “If only I had more strength or more time, like I did years ago, I would begin a new project, start a new ministry, or check in on a loved one.” The call to us is to live the days that we have for the Lord for we never know how many we have left.
Don’t envy the days of the young, fill up the days you have with the Lord. Don’t envy someone else’s strength, praise the Lord for the strength He gives. Don’t envy someone else’s wealth, be thankful for the enough that you have. It is the Lord who gives to each one severally as He wills, be content with what He gives.