I went to meet my father in the parking lot of his workplace with the urgency of Jonathan going down to meet David at Horesh to strengthen him in the Lord (1 Samuel 23:16). My almost 90-year-old father has been caring for my bedridden 82-year-old mother for three or more years. In that time he has learned laundry, housecleaning, the layout of a supermarket, and the secret to a mean beef stew, but the strain is starting to tell.
I offered to merge our households again, and he declined again. We prayed and counted our own blessings (the uncommonly beautiful weather this summer, our good health, our good health, our good health), and then I reminded him of one important fact: The time is short. For him, for me, for my mother, the time is short.
The thought that “the time is short” can go a long way. Schoolkids can sit at their desks till 3 because the time is short. People can endure a nasty flu because the time is short. I can survive a Sunday worship service with the AC cranked up too high because the time is short. The apostle Paul saw the entertainment of that notion as legitimate incentive when under stresses of various kinds:
“… the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:29–31, ESV).
It is in perfect accord with godliness to be glad that the time for all earthly joys and sorrows alike is short. This is true not only for us over 60 (though our advantage is feeling it acutely) but for you whippersnappers. The advice to men and women with spouses to “live as though they had none” is not at all a counsel of neglect, apathy, or stoicism. Rather, it endorses a certain kind of detachment. Not the Buddhist detachment that regards all earthly things as meaningless, but the Christian detachment that regards all earthly things as infinitely consequential but temporary.
The brief sufferings of this life are not worth comparing to what lies ahead. Let us live to the full—and remember that the cares, the joys, the material possessions, and the business dealings of this world will be gone before you know it.