Ten Years: What I’ve Learned Since Dad Died

Today marks the ten-year anniversary since my dad unexpectedly passed away. He was 1 month and 4 days shy of his 45th birthday. It’s hard to believe that, if God grants me another 15 1/2 years on this earth, I will have outlived Dad.

I’d like to take a moment to share some lessons I’ve learned since Dad died. I promise that these won’t be overly-mushy, and my intent is not to make you cry, but rather to reflect.

Dad’s death has taught me:

1. All of life is a fragile, precious, sacred thing.

In our technologically advanced world that we live in, it’s easy to take for granted the fragility of life. But people die every day. They die from any number of things. They die at all ages and in all seasons of life. They die while doing, shall we say, stupid, foolish things. But they also die while trying to live as wisely, prudently, and cautiously as possible.

Dad’s death has taught me these lessons in several ways. For one thing, Dad battled his weight for his entire adult life. He would diet and exercise like crazy, lose 40 lbs., look great, then gain it all back. The year before he died, he had some routine tests done on his heart, and the doctor marveled that Dad’s heart was in such great condition (everyone who knew Dad knew he wasn’t a slothful or lazy person). It’s a bitter irony that Dad battled his weight for so long, only die from electrocution.

My point is NOT that we shouldn’t take care of ourselves. But I’ve learned the importance of “living a little.” Since I’m diabetic, I watch what I eat and try to exercise regularly. But I still like M&Ms and coffee and cheesecake and my wife’s banana pudding. I want to be around for a long time for my family’s sake, but when God calls me home, I doubt I’ll be thinking “If only I had had one less strip of bacon…” Life is fragile, and we should enjoy its blessings. Moderation is the key.

grave

2. No one dies “before their time.”

I think I know what we mean when we say that someone died before their time or was taken from us “too soon.” But I’m not sure I agree with the thought behind it. I believe that God has fixed the times of our death, and he never takes life “too soon.” The “too soon” part is only from our faulty perspective.

Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that there is a time for everything, and if I were to say that Dad died “too soon,” I feel like I’d be accusing God of getting the timing wrong. God is God, and I’m not, so I don’t think anyone dies “too soon,” at least from heaven’s perspective. A person dies exactly when God has decided.

The significance of this point is that I’m not promised tomorrow. As James says in James 4, my life is little more than morning fog that burns off when the sun rises. The only reason I woke up this morning is because God commanded that it happen.

This is my point: All of us live and die under the sovereign watch of God. All things are under his control. Therefore, I need not worry much about the future, because God’s sovereignty will not lead where his grace will not provide. The Lord provided for my dad in the difficulties of his life up until the moment his life was over. Dad didn’t die “before his time.” He died exactly when God meant for him to die, which means all of my dad’s life was subject to the gracious sovereignty of God.

That means…

3. All of life is about glorifying and serving God.

If there is ONE legacy Dad left behind, it was a lifetime of service to God. At the visitation the day after he passed, more than a few people remarked to me about the FULL life Dad had lived in only 44 years. He had accomplished more in that time than most people who live to see 75, 80, or beyond.

I think that’s because, for one thing, Dad was a rather restless person, and I’ve inherited some of that. He didn’t lay in bed and watch TV a lot (mostly the weather on the ten o’clock newscast), and I have a hard time seeing him as someone addicted to Facebook.

But more than anything, Dad loved the Lord, loved the church, and loved serving it. He taught me, in word and deed, that all of life is about serving God and bringing Him glory. Yes, I try to enjoy the good things of life, but always in the proper context. There’s a time to eat cheesecake and banana pudding, but make sure you do it to the glory of God. There’s a time to live and die, to laugh and cry, to work and play. All of them are done to the glory of God.

Over the last few years, I’ve given a lot of thought as to why I was in ministry and preaching. Not too long ago, I unconsciously worked out of a desire to make my dad proud or happy, which was twisted since he wasn’t around anymore to show his approval, and he wouldn’t have been happy that I was trying to please him anyway. I’ve always known Dad wanted me to serve the Lord, but over the last 2+ years, I’ve come to better grips with what that meant.

Living your life to please someone else (spouse, kids, parents, boss) is exhausting. Not even God can make everyone happy. It is profoundly unhealthy in every conceivable way to live life this way. Dad’s death has taught me to live to please the Lord. It’s the Lord’s blessings that make life so special and precious. It’s the Lord’s sovereignty that make life so fragile and unpredictable. And it’s working for the Lord’s glory that make life so rewarding.

I’m thankful that I had a dad who taught me all these things…in his life and in his death.

Father, thank you for blessing me with such an awesome earthly dad. Thank you for the memories he left and the lessons he taught. Thank you for the fact that, by your grace, I have the hope of seeing him one day. Help us to value life as the precious gift it is and not live it as if we are trying to stretch every possible second out of it, but rather live it for your glory. Help us to realize we will never be satisfied until we do that. Make us restless until we find peace in you. And make me at least half the daddy to my Daniel that his grandfather was to me. In Jesus’ name.


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Michael Whitworth is the founder of Start2Finish and author of several books, including the award-winning "The Epic of God" and "The Derision of Heaven." In his spare time, Michael enjoys reading and drinking coffee, watching sports, and spending time with his awesome family and furry golden retriever.

  1. Paul September 16, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    Great thoughts, Michael! I wish I had known your Dad. But I’m confident that I understand a lot about who he was and what he was like just by knowing you.