Making it to the end

The year is winding down, and life is unravelling a little around the edges. I’m no longer so keen to get up early and read my Bible. Chores go neglected. The kids’ homework tapers off, then stops. The days I planned so carefully at the start of the year and launched myself into with shiny new enthusiasm gradually become chaotic and disorganized.

We’re all tired out, sick of the familiar tasks. We drag ourselves out of bed and into the car in the mornings. We hold onto what’s left of our routine by our fingertips. We feel like we deserve some respite—some reward for getting this far. We’ll make it to the end of the year—to holidays and rest and a new start—we will!—but we’ll be glad when we get there.

It occurs to me that many things in life are like this. I once worked in ministry alongside an enthusiastic, committed Christian leader. When he knew he was moving on to another ministry position, he became distracted and emotionally absent. I imagine it’s the same with a marriage that’s coming to an end—or a job, a task, a relationship. When you’re no longer committed to the long haul, or when the long haul is nearing its end, it’s hard to keep on going.

Life itself is like this. I wonder how it feels to approach the end of a life. Does it feel like you can’t be bothered any more—like you’ve earned some rest now that the long, hard years are nearly over? Is that why so many people retire from an active role in life when they grow old?

This tendency of humans to move on before we’ve moved on—to peter out before we’ve reached the end—to give up, give in, give ourselves over to laziness and inattention—is just one more example of how deeply sin infects us. For the attitude God wants from us is just the opposite:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Heb 12:1-3)

I think of my father-in-law, who served and taught and evangelized and encouraged right into his last cancer-ridden days. I think of a faithful couple who adopted a disabled child and who haven’t given up caring for that child even into adulthood—even when it’s harder rather than easier. I think of friends who endure chronic illness, ongoing grief, or persistent depression—who stubbornly fight for their faith even though every day is a struggle.

Let’s not give up before we get there. Let’s not let go of what we’ve attained (Phil 3:16). Let’s keep on loving, even when we’re weary of loving (Gal 6:9). Let’s not taper off. Let’s not end weakly. Let’s remember that what lies beyond the end makes reaching the end worthwhile. Let’s make it our aim to be able to say one day,

… the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness … (2 Tim 4:6-8)

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