I have almost died twice in my life. The first time was from pneumonia when I was 4 years old. I was hospitalized for a week, and although I remember little of the experience, to this day I have to be diligent about my respiratory health because another case could be fatal. The second time was when I was 18, and I fully recall that experience. It was January 1994, and I was a second semester freshman at the University of South Carolina. I went to class and band practice, ate supper with my family and studied for a quiz in one of my classes when I suddenly got violently ill. I still don’t know exactly what it was, but it hit hard and fast. After a few miserable hours with no improvement, I finally ruled out a stomach virus and asked my parents to take me to the emergency room.
Lying on a bed in the ER with a nurse trying to find a vein in my arm, all I could think of was that I hadn’t had a chance to live. I was only 18, had just started college, and my brother was getting married in three weeks. It seemed ironic that I would be spared death at age 4 to barely grow up. I definitely conversed with the Lord that night. The main thing I prayed for was a chance to serve Him in this world as an adult. I felt I really hadn’t done much for Him up to that point, and had spent all of my life in preparation for a future that I may never have.
The next thing I remember was waking up in my bedroom the next night. More than anything, I was relieved that I woke up at all. Despite being weak and achy from my ordeal, I was overjoyed that my prayers had been answered and that God had a purpose for me in this world.
Anybody that has had a near-death experience will tell you it’s the most frightening thing that can happen. Suddenly, all of the little things fall away and you see what’s really important. The blessings seem to shine brighter, and you start to realize what matters to you the most. One thing I realized is that every day is a gift from God that should never be taken for granted. Every morning is a new opportunity to serve the Lord through the gifts He blessed us with. Every new dawn brings with it the grace of new chances to serve Him and build faith in one another and ourselves.
No matter what you are facing in life, remember, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23-24 RSV). I know from experience that the same old routine can get mind-numbing after a while, and I also know that sometimes you go through seasons where it seems nothing goes right.
We all face trials and challenges, and all of our lives are difficult in one way or another. The good news is that, no matter how bad things seem, the Lord is always with us and gives us the gift of another day to set things right. Hard times never last. The Lord graciously forgives the mistakes of yesterday and turns them to the forgiven wisdom of today. It may take a while to reach that goal, make that dream come true, or resolve that problem, but you have a chance with every sunrise to take steps toward that goal. If you faithfully persevere, one day you will wake up to a bright sunrise on a clear horizon.
Where there is life, there is hope. If you woke up this morning, the Lord has given you a golden opportunity. Hope gives us the chance to learn from the experiences of the past and move forward. All of us are given this gift with the dawn of each new day.
How will you use this gift today?