Everything changes in the blink of an eye
I often say that there are things I wish I had known before starting my first semester at Biola.
I wish someone had told me the ins and outs of campus life that everyone is expected to instantly know once becoming a student. I say, had I known these things, I could have avoided embarrassment, shame, or failure. Maybe, just maybe, I could have been more successful at what I was doing had I possessed some inkling of what the future would hold.
But that’s not really true, now, is it?
Unsuspecting of tragedy
Had I known that in my first year of college, my very good friend from home, whom I have known since the 6th grade, would die before seeing the next summer; that he would not make it home for his first spring break because the truck I’ve ridden in with him before would roll over on the freeway, taking him away from his family before his 20th birthday…how could knowing that really have helped me cope?
Maybe in small scale instances, I could have saved my own pride by knowing ahead of time what common Biola abbreviations stand for. But saving my pride isn’t what God wants. God did not create us to be omniscient or clairvoyant. He didn’t give us the all-knowing abilities He has, and I believe He withheld them for good reason.
Dealing with “what if’s”
It is easy to say, “If I had only known…” or, “If I could just go back…” or, “I would have done it all differently…” because those statements are no doubt true. We all have regrets and words we wish had never left our lips. But if we had the ability to go back and change things, or to be as informed as possible about future situations before beginning them, what would we be? Certainly not the people God has made us to be. And wanting to be something other than what God has made us to be is sinful. It is selfish and ill-informed because we can never know better than God about anything. We will never be able to offer Him suggestions because of His omniscience, infinitude, eternalness, and complete justice. But did God leave us blindfolded in a sinful and scary world? No! God has prepared us with His word. He gave us the Bible to prepare ourselves for any and all situations. He gave us a manual with exact instructions on how to behave, how to treat others, and how to cope with every emotion and occurrence. And these instructions apply to all areas of life. These teachings will never fail us, never steer us wrong, never contradict themselves, and never ever go against what God wants for us.
All I need to know
We do not need to know the future. We would not handle it properly if we did. We have the Bible in order to remember that life isn’t about knowing what’s next. It’s knowing how to glorify our God through anything that could happen next, and taking meticulous care to prepare ourselves for the spiritual battles and upheavals we will face. Right now, I am unaware of the next tragedy I will face. So I will do all I can to prepare myself for it in any way I can, given that God is the center of it all. If God took my young friend home in order to teach all those who loved him something, this would be my tidbit:
I do not regret any part of my friendship with my friend. There is nothing I wish to take back or redo. I cared for him very much. What God has charged my heart with is this: do not hold back affirmation. There were things in my friend’s character which I cherished. An incredibly godly man, he never changed who he was for anyone, even though it sometimes cost him popularity and respect. There were times he got on my nerves too, and that was no doubt the Spirit working on my heart. But Josh never faltered. He never changed himself or tried to be someone he thought people would like. He was God’s son through and through. Whether he was troubled by the rejection he received from his quirky sense of humor or refusal to change himself, or if he was as unfazed as he seemed, I will never know. He may have been hurting inside, but I never asked. Nor did I tell him how much I appreciated who he was, the heart he had, or the kindness he never failed to show. I never told him.
But God does not have me in a slump of regret. He does not beckon me to dwell on what I didn’t do. Instead, He has told me to start now. I will see Josh again. I’ll let him know how special he was when that time comes. But right now, there are people in my life to whom I do not give a lot of affirmation. And I will change that.
God also asked me this: Why does your heart break for someone who is now rejoicing with Me in heaven, while hundreds of thousands of people die every day who do not know Me? Why does your heart not break for them?
And God is right – of course. My heart breaks for someone who now has it better than he ever did, but those who do not know Christ and lost their chance forever do not come to my mind.
Acting on what I know now
In memory of my dear friend, who was the first person to invite me to the youth group that brought me to Christ; who persistently asked me to attend the weekly meetings and game nights, and who stayed right by my side through the entire service because I was terrified to talk to anyone else; who lived a life that lined up with what he preached and always ran for the prize; who may not have known, but by God’s grace I will tell him one day, that the Holy Spirit used him to make all the difference in the world to my salvation… In his memory, I will take a stand on the Great Commission. I will work double time to reach out, to let the Holy Spirit use me to plant the seeds of salvation in others’ lives, and to share the love of a boy whose life was taken away from him too quickly, but who is now rejoicing forever, saving all of his loved ones a place right next to him in God’s kingdom.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27