It is easy to forget that death is always right around the corner, especially when you are young like I am. I am not the most physically fit man in the world, but I am in decent health. I do not see my impending doom like a seventy year old man or a woman with cancer. Death is what my parents will reach soon enough. But for me it is still decades away.
But this perspective is a lie. Death is always, at every moment, only a step away. This became clear to me as I drove home from vacation a couple of weeks ago. My wife took the picture at the top of the page out the front window of our 15 passenger two wheel drive van. I drove in snow like this for over six hours. I knew that at any moment we could slip and our van could roll. I watched in my mirror as semi-trucks hurtled down snow covered roads at 60 miles an hour when I was going 30. I got behind cars driving 10 miles per hour that created more of a risk than the fast drivers. I saw big trucks in ditches, cars overturned, and highway patrolmen helping stranded motorists. I felt my back tires slide numerous times. I felt the weight of the nine souls in my care.
So how did my life change in that six hour brush with death? I prayed. I prayed like I rarely pray. I prayed for safety. I prayed for wisdom. I prayed for peace. When I finally got down my snow covered driveway and put the van in park, I thanked the Lord for keeping me and my family safe. When we got the van unloaded I gathered the family and we all thanked the Lord again. Finally, I thought to myself only God knows how close I was to death.
Later that night it occurred to me that this day was no different than any other day. God sustained and kept me as I drove in the snow. He sustains me and keeps me when the roads are dry. He keeps my family safe in the sunshine, just as he did when we could barely see five feet. He keeps me safe from crazy college kids (our town is full of them) just as he did from crazy truckers. Every moment I am not in a ditch or wrecked on the side of the road or rolling my van means that the Lord has protected. Every morning when I wake up, the Lord has protected me throughout the night. Every evening when I sit down to eat God has hedged me in throughout the day. Every kiss I get from my wife means that he has covered her under his protective wings. Every child I get to tuck in at night means that their heavenly Father has given them to me for one more day.
Why don’t I pray every day like I did that day in the snow? Why don’t I give thanks just for reaching my front door like I did that day? Because I forget that every day, all day, it is only God’s watchful care that keeps me and those I love. I forget that “all things come, not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.” (Heidelberg Catechism Q.27). I saw that my prayer life is directly linked to my recognition of God’s providence. When I forget God rules, I cease to pray and give thanks. When I remember that God governs all, my prayer life gets a shot of adrenaline and each day ends in thanksgiving, no matter what the weather was like.