At some point in our life, each of us contemplates the fact that we really do not know how much time we have to live.
This thought often becomes most prominent when we hear news of someone’s untimely death. Perhaps it was someone close to us, or an acquaintance that we just talked to recently. Perhaps it was a total stranger and it was the way they died that gave us a moment’s pause to reflect on the reality that our life could be “cut short” at any moment – as if life is all that long to begin with.
“The length of our days is seventy years— or eighty, if we have the strength; yet even the best of them is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.”
Psalm 90:10 (NIV)
The longer I live, the more I see myself in the Bible. I see myself as one of those who were released from bondage in Egypt. And instead of serving the One who freed me, I used my freedom to serve the cruelest master of all – my flesh. My flesh can never be satisfied. The more I give it, the more it wants. Why? Simple. I am unable to give it what it really needs, what it truly hungers and thirsts for; that which only God can provide. And so I wandered in the wilderness of self, asking God to give me what I wanted, instead of asking Him to give me what I truly needed.
As I consider all the years in which I nearly killed myself trying to obtain everything I thought I wanted and needed, I realize how good God truly is. For I can think of at least eight times that I should’ve been dead – each of them as a result of my own actions. And so, as I was thinking about how much time I have left compared to how much time I have wasted, the phrase “living on borrowed time” came to mind. But as I thought about the meaning of that phrase, I became confused. How can I (or any of us for that matter) borrow time? To borrow implies a temporary use of something that you will return to the rightful owner at some point. How can we borrow time and who are we supposedly borrowing it from? I did an Internet search for the origin of the phrase, and came up with the following:
Living on borrowed time means living after the time you would have expected to have died. The time is ‘borrowed’ from Death.
(More results here: Phrase Finder)
This makes absolutely no sense at all! There is no way to give back “borrowed” time, because “time” is not something that can be borrowed!
“Indeed, how can people avoid what they don’t know is going to happen? None of us can hold back our spirit from departing. None of us has the power to prevent the day of our death. There is no escaping that obligation, that dark battle. And in the face of death, wickedness will certainly not rescue those who practice it.”
Ecclesiastes 8:7 through Ecclesiastes 8:8 (NLT)
As one who is living even though I should be dead – I do not see myself living on “borrowed” time. Rather, I understand that I am a guilty man who has been pardoned (forgiven) for all my rebellious acts. I was under the sentence of death, but for reasons known only to God, He has pardoned me.
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.'”
Acts 17:24-28 (NIV)
As the apostle Paul stated to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in Athens, God has given me so many “seasons” and has set my “boundaries,” so that I might look for Him, reach for Him, and find Him. He has done this for you as much as for me. He has done this for ALL of us. None of us are living on “borrowed” time. Our days have been set for us. Both the length and the purpose of our life has been set by the Giver of ALL life, Lord God Almighty.
What we do with the life He has given us is completely our choice, for He has given us the freedom to make our own choices. My choices led me to complete despair and demoralization. As the song Amazing Grace describes it, I was a complete “wretch.” My choices had led me to ruin – physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. At age 47 I was a prisoner of my own devices and I longed for death as much as I did at age 16.
Do you remember how despondent and depressed Elijah became at one point? Do you remember how God restored him? (See 1 Kings 19:1-8) That is what God has done in my life and in the lives of countless others. But He will not force Himself upon anyone. We must open our heart to Him and give up living for our self – for our flesh. As soon as we become willing to give our life back to the One who loves us even more than we love ourselves, we really do begin to understand what it is to really live. No longer do we feel as though we are living on “borrowed” time. Instead we come to realize that we are living in the time allotted to us and we are truly sorry for the time we wasted trying to live life on our own terms. With God in control, we know what it is to have true peace in our heart. We know what it is to live selflessly. We find true joy in the giving of ourselves to others in need. No longer do we dread waking up in the morning. No longer is it a chore to spend time on our knees with God. Life is good even in the middle of adversity, because we know that God is in control and “what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later” (Romans 8:18 NLT).
If you are now like I once was, living to satisfy your own desires, I hope you do not have to go through what I did to realize what a “dead end” that leads to. If you think you’re in a lot of pain now, know this — it only increases as you continue going down that path of self will. Nothing you try will ever truly satisfy. You know what I’m saying is true. Just look around you. Look at the people killing themselves day in and day out trying to scratch that itch that just won’t go away. If you keep on trying to satisfy your own desires, you’re going to end up somewhere you never thought you’d be – and eventually you’ll long for death to come and put you out of your misery. I know, I’ve been there and so have countless others. Open your eyes and your heart to the Truth. It isn’t hard to see. A life full of self is a life of endless frustration and heartache.