38:1 In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’”
2 Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord, 3 and said, “Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
4 And the word of the Lord came to Isaiah, saying, 5 “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will add to your days fifteen years. 6 I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city.”’ 7 And this is the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing which He has spoken: 8 “Behold, I will bring the shadow on the sundial, which has gone down with the sun on the sundial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward.” So the sun returned ten degrees on the dial by which it had gone down.
9 This is the writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness:
10 I said, “In the prime of my life
I shall go to the gates of Sheol;
I am deprived of the remainder of my years.”
11 I said, “I shall not see Yah,
The Lord in the land of the living;
I shall observe man no more among the inhabitants of the world.
12 My life span is gone,
Taken from me like a shepherd’s tent;
I have cut off my life like a weaver.
He cuts me off from the loom;
From day until night You make an end of me.
13 I have considered until morning—
Like a lion, So He breaks all my bones;
From day until night You make an end of me.
14 Like a crane or a swallow, so I chattered; I mourned like a dove;
My eyes fail from looking upward.
O Lord, I am oppressed;
Undertake for me!
15 “What shall I say? He has both spoken to me, And He Himself has done it.
I shall walk carefully all my years
In the bitterness of my soul.
16 O Lord, by these things men live;
And in all these things is the life of my spirit; So You will restore me and make me live.
17 Indeed it was for my own peace
That I had great bitterness;
But You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption,
For You have cast all my sins behind Your back.
18 For Sheol cannot thank You,
Death cannot praise You;
Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your truth.
19 The living, the living man, he shall praise You, As I do this day;
The father shall make known Your truth to the children.
20 “The Lord was ready to save me;
Therefore we will sing my songs with stringed instruments all the days of our life, in the house of the Lord.”
21 Now Isaiah had said, “Let them take a lump of figs, and apply it as a poultice on the boil, and he shall recover.”
It seems like in this world something is always coming at us. First Hezekiah was going to get wiped out by Sennacherib. Now he is facing death by disease. Clearly he doesn't want to die. Many of us never get a warning. We aren't put on the clock. To know when we are going to die is a strange journey. It is like most things a blessing and a curse. In some ways it is a benefit to be able to put our affairs in order and say goodbye. In another way it is a curse or at least a heavy burden. Each day carries more weight. It feels like more should be done with it. The endless nagging thoughts of "Am I spending this precious remaining time correctly."
If it sounds like I have a little bit of experience with facing death it is because I do. In the spring of 2005 I was diagnosed with bladder cancer which carries a 3-5 year life expectancy. The research says it will always come back. Like Hezekiah I gave the prognosis to God and left myself in His hands. I never asked for healing or more time. I just wanted His will to be done because I had already experienced enough to know that He knows best.
I do want to share one critical thing I learned and am still learning daily. Death is coming. Next time I may have no warning. The first piece of advice given to those who know death is imminent is to "put their affairs in order". I have observed the threat of death change people. It has opened the door of forgiveness and reconciliation in previously broken relationships. That's a good thing but what about those who never get the chance? What about those who die suddenly and unexpectedly with no chance to say "I'm sorry" or "I forgive you" or "I love you"?
What I have learned and try to live out everyday is to be ready. It's interesting to note that Jesus never spoke in terms of getting ready. He simply said be ready. His word advises "Do not let the sun set on your anger". If we live and love and care daily as if death is imminent the bitter tears of regret will never flow. We'll never have to stand over the sleeping body of someone we love who isn't going to wake up until Jesus comes and live with the painful regret that things weren't right between you.
His Word also says "Today is the day."
Live today. Love today. Forgive today. Embrace today. In the grand scheme of life today is the only day we ever have.