“I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him." (Ecclesiastes 3:14)
I personally believe that God orchestrates the affairs of life—both the good and the bad—to bring us to the place where our faith will be in him alone. Slowly but surely as we go through life, he weans us away from the things of the world. At first the process touches only our possessions (which we can replace), but eventually it touches our relationships (which may not be replaced), then it touches our loved ones (who cannot be replaced), finally it touches life itself (which is never replaced). Then there is nothing left but us and God.
Through all this process our Heavenly Father leads us along the pathway of complete trust in him. Slowly but surely we discover that the things we thought we couldn’t live without don’t matter as much as we thought they did. Even the dearest and sweetest things of life take second place to the pleasure of knowing God. In the end we discover that he has emptied our hands of everything and then filled them with himself.
In writing these words I am keenly aware that I only dimly understand their full meaning. At this point in my life I still have many things in my hands—my wife, my three sons, two daughters-in-law, two grandsons (and another on the way), my friends, my career, my health, my dreams, my plans for the future. But the process of growing older is nothing more than this—learning to hold lightly the things God has given you, knowing that you can’t keep them forever anyway. At any moment, he can take them away—one by one, two at a time, or all of them together. Or he could take back the life he gave me 60 years ago.
If I have any advice for you, it is this. Learn to hold lightly what you value greatly. You can’t keep it forever and you can’t take it with you.
Some of you who read these words are in the midst of a great struggle in your life. You feel pressured about something and you don’t want to give it up. But you must . . . and you will. I can’t spare you the pain of yielding your dearest treasures to God, but I promise you the joy will far outweigh the pain you feel right now.
Eternal Father, teach me to let go of the things I can’t keep and to hold fast to that which lasts forever. Amen.
Ray Pritchard pastored in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. Married to Marlene for 38 years, he enjoys being a husband, a father and a grandfather, riding his bike, and playing with Dudley and Gary, beloved basset hounds.