The Stanford Center on Longevity recently surveyed more than 2300 people and asked them this question. 77% said that they wanted to live to be 100. That a majority of people would want to live to a ripe old age isn’t surprising. What did surprise the researchers is how little those surveyed had done to prepare to live this long. This included both health and financial concerns. The survey showed that two-thirds of those surveyed were unhappy with their weight. Many people responded that if they retired at age 65, they didn’t have the financial means to support themselves for another thirty-five years. Over three-fourths of the respondents said they wanted to live to be 100, but only 42% said they were making an effort to get there.
Why is it that we want to live a long life, but haven’t prepared for it?
It could be that death isn’t real for many of us. We don’t have a lot of experience with it, and therefore tend to underestimate it. When I was in college, some of my friends and I were absolutely convinced that we wouldn’t live very long. I couldn’t see myself living any longer than age 35. One of my best friends was sure that he wasn’t going to make it past 28. And we didn’t do anything reckless. We didn’t drink, smoke, drive fast, or participate in any self-destructive behaviors.
I remember years ago when I heard my father say that he would like to “kick out” at about age 65. He worked in the elevator trade and owned a small elevator company. It’s tough work. I think he felt that if he couldn’t work anymore, he would rather just ride off into the sunset. He doesn’t quite feel this way anymore, primarily because he discovered something called “retirement.”
In times past, there were no such things as retirement homes and health care facilities. Families took care of aging members in their final years. They saw death and knew it well. It was included in children’s rhymes. In the New England Primer, used to help children in the 1700s learn to read, we see passages like, “As runs the Glass, Mans Life doth pass” and “Xerxes the great did die, and so must you & I.”
We often prepare for many different eventualities in life, except for the most important one of all: its end.
In John 11, Lazarus becomes ill. Jesus hears of Lazarus illness but arrives after he has already died. Mary and Martha are grief-stricken, to be sure, and Martha says to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus assures her, “Your brother will rise again.” Reflecting the general Jewish belief in a general resurrection of the dead in the future, Martha responds, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” With confidence and assurance, Jesus says to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.
We know that the story ends with Lazarus rising from the grave. Jesus’ story in the Gospels ends the same way. Will yours? Will our story end with us leaving an empty tomb behind? If we are prepared, it will. If Jesus returned tonight, and we were summoned to stand before him, would he tell us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”? Or would he say, “Depart from me; I never knew you”?
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