On his sickbed prior to his death, the British preacher, Charles Spurgeon, said, “If you do not wish to be full of regrets when you are forced to lie still, work while you can. If you desire to make a sickbed as soft as it can be, do not stuff it with mournful reflections that you wasted time when you were in health and strength.” I suppose it is only natural that when you get to the place Spurgeon described that you have some regrets. You can no longer climb that mountain or swim in the lagoon. Neither can you jump stairs two at a time or run and leap across the meadow.
But that’s not what Spurgeon had in mind. What he was talking about was coming to the sunset of your life and then looking back, realizing you took the wrong road and wasted a lot of your years.
To ensure that you will have no regrets, put into operation the following four guidelines, which can make a tremendous amount of difference.
Guideline #1: Do it now.
Don’t wait until you retire to start that hobby, or the trip, or to get busy remodeling the house, or… (are you ready for this?) get into the shoebox in the closet and sort out those letters you wrote to your old girlfriend before you were married—the ones you would just as soon your children didn’t read after you are gone. I’m also suggesting that you make peace with your enemies and get rid of the bitterness, which has made enemies out of friends.
Guideline #2: Plan it now.
OK, there are some things that you can’t do now, things that take preparation and planning—that fishing trip with your boys, the anniversary weekend you kept promising your wife, the retirement program you have been intending to eventually set up. Good intentions are not enough. A dream, said someone, is a goal with a timeline attached.
By the way, put to rest that notion that there will be plenty of time later. You can’t broker your future. As she lay dying, Queen Victoria, the British monarch, is said to have cried, “My kingdom, my kingdom for an inch of time.” I’m amazed at the number of people who have no written will outlining what they want to be done with their assets which, by default, often go to the government or pass into the hands of those who will little appreciate them or use them as the donor would have wanted.
Guideline #3: Say it now.
That teacher who so influenced your life. You’ve always been intending to find her and tell her how much you appreciated what she did. You’ve also been intending to tell your dad how much you do love him, something which just doesn’t come easy because of a broken home. Don’t wait. Say it now.
Guideline #4: Live it now.
Make your peace with God now, not when you are on a deathbed. “Deathbed conversions are seldom real,” said Matthew Henry long ago, adding, “and true conversions are seldom made on the deathbed.” Writing to the Corinthians, Paul penned these strong words: “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”
There are times when hard-working, thoughtful people—the kind who have been very successful in business, education, and industry, the kind who got to the top by skillful planning, hard work, and ingenuity—ignore God until they are felled by a stroke or a massive heart attack and are so doped up by medication, they find it difficult to do much straight thinking.
Don’t wait until you are faced with the final exam to start cramming for the test and experience regrets. Find out what the Bible says about making peace with God so when you stand at the door of God’s heaven and knock, your knees won’t be making more noise than your knuckles. Good advice to make your sickbed softer.
Resource reading: Isaiah 38:1-21
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