Life has always been uncertain, yet that troubling lesson has always been hard to learn. James confronts a secular attitude when he writes:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.James 4:13–16, ESV
Is it wrong to be in business and make money? No. Is it wrong to make plans? No. However, it is wrong to go about life and not acknowledge God. It is wrong to place our trust in our business, our money, and our plans. James reminds us of the brevity of life and the certainty of God.
The regularity of our next breath and the next sunrise sometimes lulls us into complacency. James’ teaching has counterparts elsewhere in scripture. Ecclesiastes gives these startling words.
It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:2, ESV
Why is mourning beneficial? Because it reminds us that life is brief, and we should make the most of our time. The end of Ecclesiastes encourages us to remember our Creator when we are young (12:1), but if not then, we should seek God before our death “before the silver cord is snapped” (12:6, ESV). Why?
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:13–14, ESV
Should the uncertainties of life handicap us and cause us to live in fear? No. We must live life completely and fully. We must be grateful for today. We must place our trust in God. Only God can bear the full weight of our life’s trust. Anything else can break under the load. Only God can be the stronghold of my life (Psalm 27:1). The uncertainties of life are answered in the certainty of God and His promises.