I was reading USA Today when a headline on the front page caught my eye. The article was titled, “Regrets? We’ve had a few.” The subtitle, “The survey measures wisdom,” is the phrase that caused me to write this blog post. USA Today polled 1000+ seniors and 1000+ young people, then compared their answers. Using the idea that “wisdom comes with age,” the article shared the results of the survey.
According to the article, senior adults know that “getting older offers fewer opportunities for ‘do-overs’ to course-correct their lives.” The article concluded by saying, “Regret can become a health problem if people have no chance to right a wrong. Let go of those regrets and find something else in life that is meaningful and can provide purposeful living.” What do people regret in their older years? How can people of all ages live a purposeful life, filled with joy?
This is the wisdom that the older generation wanted to pass to those who were younger:
- Save more money.
- Take better care of your health.
- Make better investments.
- Keep legal documents organized.
- Stay close with family and friends.
I read this article and when I finished, I felt a little sad. The list offered great ideas that we would agree with – as pertaining to life on earth. We, as Christians, know that our earthly lives are about investing in our eternal lives. The USA Today list isn’t bad, just incomplete. I wonder what people would have said if they had surveyed terminal patients in the hospital or nursing homes? What regrets and wisdom would they share?
Jim and I have shared many of those moments with older Christians over the years. Quite often, when someone knew they were going to die soon, they invited Jim over to discuss their funeral service. Those people wanted to plan it, and in some ways attend it, ahead of time. There is almost always a great peace, even joy in those people’s hearts. They know the finish line is in sight, and they are looking forward to seeing what is on the other side of it. They believe the Scripture that says, “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:16-17).
As I think back to the moments we have spent with people who knew heaven was just around the corner, I think this is the list they would want to pass on to those who were younger:
- Stay close with family and friends – and do all you can to make certain they know Jesus as their Savior.
- Make better investments with your time as well as your money. Make certain that you are storing treasure in heaven as well as in a bank or mutual fund.
- Take better care of your health because you want to spend as much time as you are able sharing the gospel message, and you want a healthy mind and body to give that message all the time and credibility it deserves.
- Let others matter more than yourself. Let money be a means to the end, never the end itself. You will leave your money behind, you will spend eternity with the people who have come to a personal relationship with Jesus.
Peter encouraged the early Christians, most of whom had lived life on earth with very little ease. He said, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).
The USA Today article was great advice for our earthly lives, but only if submitted to God’s word for our eternal lives. If we want to live life with few regrets and greater joy, we need to live the life that God has planned for us to live.
The article said, “Let go of those regrets and find something else in life that is meaningful and can provide purposeful living.” Christians know our purpose is to “go and make disciples.” There is no greater joy than seeing someone you care about come to a saving faith in Jesus. I hope all of us will live this life, and leave this life, joyfully – with very few regrets.