As we approach the ending of one year and the beginning of the next, most people have moments of reflection about the past and thoughts about the future.  People think about their lives. Is my life meaningful? Am I doing what is right? Am I happy, and what needs to change?

I find it helpful to remember thoughts from someone whom many consider the richest, wisest, and most accomplished human to ever live, King Solomon.  He lacked nothing he wanted regarding possessions, influence, our anything that would lead to a fulfilled life.  He made many mistakes and had many accomplishments. Because he served God, he obtained wisdom from it all and expressed God’s amazing wisdom at the end of his life.

  • Ecclestriases 7:1-29 MSG A good reputation is better than a fat bank account. Your death date tells more than your birth date. 2 You learn more at a funeral than at a feast— After all, that’s where we’ll end up. We might discover something from it…5 You’ll get more from the rebuke of someone wise than from the song and dance of fools.  8 Endings are better than beginnings. Sticking to it is better than standing out…14 On a good day, enjoy yourself; On a bad day, examine your conscience. God arranges for both kinds of days So that we won’t take anything for granted…29 Yet I did spot one ray of light in this murk: God made men and women true and upright; we’re the ones who’ve made a mess of things.
  • Ecclesiastes 12:13  The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person

Receiving instruction from the LAST DAY to live God’s best EVERY DAY

Death destroys a man, but the idea of Death saves him. – E.M. Foster

Matthew Henry said, “It ought to be the business of every day to prepare for our last day.” This quote highlights God’s instruction from the book of Ecclesiastes.  Solomon seems to understand and instruct us about the cure for a sense of despair or wasting our lives.  When we consider “that day,” it reminds us of what is truly important this day which will lead us to make each day more meaningful.

Insights from those working in palliative care (care for people dying or with serious illness).  

Over the years, I have been interested in how the wisdom of Solomon in Ecclesiastes is expressed in real-life situations.  I have had several personal experiences with people on their death bed.  I have also read books and articles from people who worked in palliative care.  Bonnie Ware worked many years in palliative care, and from her years of experience, she wrote a book, The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying—a Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing.  Others, like Hospice doctor Dr. Simran Malhotra, recorded similar accounts in her work “What most people say before they die.” 

“If we allow it, death can be our greatest teacher,” Dr. Malhotra explains. “It has a way of putting things into perspective and making us question our priorities. For me, working in palliative care has been a powerful reminder of what matters in life. I hope that by sharing some of the most common regrets of my patients, it will inspire you to live a life with no regrets.”

The most common regrets from the various reports (besides the ultimate regret people face meeting God without His forgiveness through Jesus in their lives),  are very similar.  The biggest tend to be the following.

1. Not spending more time with loved ones and not resolving conflicts that caused separations from family and friends.   

2. Spending too much time at work rather than with their families They wished they made more time for their loved ones.  In the end, people want to be free from pain and surrounded by those they love and who are important to them.  Ware indicated, “all the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of the work existence.”

3. Not living authentically.  Having the courage to avoid letting the expectations or ideas of others, not God, dictate how they lived their lives.  Solomon did say, “The fear of man is a snare, but the one who trusts in the LORD is protected” (Proverbs 29:7).

4. Overemphasis of the importance of money and material possessions Dr. Malhotra shares that at the end of their lives. “Nobody has really ever shared with me bluntly like, oh, I’m so proud of the big house I had or the specific car I drove.”  “It’s always about family” says Dr. Malhotra. “It’s always about their relationships or about how they’re so proud of their children or great-grandchildren or the things that they’re doing with their life and their education and the things that they’ve accomplished, that really is what it comes down to.”

5. The courage to express their feelings to others.  Authentic communication is an essential first step of living as God designed. It leads to freedom and blessing because we can express our hearts to people instead of being bottled up. Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, putting away lying, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another.  Remember that your interaction with someone may be the last thing they hear from you. Make it count!!!

6. Not staying in touch with important people in their lives.  Ware states, “People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible.  But it is not money or status that holds true importance for them. It all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.”

7. Not letting themselves be more carefree and happier.  Ware expressed, “This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others and to themselves that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.” Like a child, being more carefree, fun-loving, and full of faith is something to aspire to. Jesus enjoyed being around children and they liked to be around Him. It would do us good to be more playful and fun-loving around children because of the joy of the Lord and let this attitude spill over into the rest of our lives. Because of this tendency, Jesus told us, “My Kingdom belongs to little children” (Matt. 19:13-14).

Learning from the Story of Alfred Nobel

The good news if you are reading this article is that it’s not too late.  You can reach out to God for insight and change today.  I remember the great story of Alfred Nobel that emphasized this important truth. Nobel was a Swedish Chemist who made his fortune by inventing dynamite and other powerful explosives, which governments bought to produce weapons.  In 1888, the death of his brother Ludvig caused several newspapers to publish an obituary of Alfred in error. One French newspaper published an obituary titled “Le marchand de la mort est mort” (“The merchant of death is dead”). He was described as a man who became rich from enabling people to kill each other in unprecedented quantities. Nobel read the obituary and was appalled at the idea that he would be remembered in this way. Shaken by this assessment, Nobel resolved to use his fortune to reward accomplishments that benefited humanity, including what we now know as the Nobel Peace Prize.

In light of God’s wisdom consider the following as we approach the new year and by God’s Spirit, make important changes.

  • What if today was the last day of your life?
  • How would you choose to spend it?  You never know when your interaction with someone may be the last time you hear their voice and they hear yours. Make it count!

Doug Kreighbaum

Don’t forget to check out the man resources we have on the C2C Website.  There are excellent written and video content for personal and small group study.   Equipping Disciples and Equipping Churches.  There are also many books, studies, and resources from our greater Salt and Light family, S & L Resources.