Wasted Years

The other day, a man I’ve known most of my life passed away. Early onset Alzheimer’s Disease stole his mind, then his life. I read his brief obituary and learned that he was to have no service. In other words, he lived, died, and left a nondescript dash – the line between his birth and death. That little line represents the story of our life. Our accomplishments, strengths, weaknesses, failures, successes, employment, family – growing up years, marriage, children, and grandchildren – all depend on how many years we live. The most important part of the dash asks the question, “What did he or she do with Jesus Christ?” We wrap all this information up in a package called an obituary.   

Life is too precious to squander, to throw away. We often hear, “It’s not how many years we live, but how we live our years.” And I believe this to be true. I served as a hospice chaplain for ten years, and the saddest thing I confronted was not death itself; it was wasted lives. A high percentage of those I encountered squandered their years. Many of them died long before they drew their last breath.

Usually, their existence was characterized by the absence of family – either deceased or estranged. They were often friendless. Many were unable to hold steady jobs and lived in poverty – wards of the State. A lot of them had been homeless for long periods. They were vagabonds. Alcohol or drugs took their deadly toll on most of them. And all of them were social misfits. Most wanted nothing to do with spiritual matters, as anger toward God was prevalent. The Blame Game was their “go-to.”

The gospel song, “Wasted Years,” written in 1960 by Wally Fowler, and later made popular by Dallas Holm, deeply impacted my life when I came to salvation. His words describe the sadness of thrown-away lives. I remember listening to this song and promising myself that my life would bring glory to God and not be wasted.

“As you wander alone on life’s pathway,

Have you lived without love, a life of tears?

Have you searched for life’s hidden meaning,

Or is your life filled with long and wasted years?

Chorus:

Wasted years, wasted years, oh how foolish,

As you walk on in darkness and in fear;

Turn around, turn around, God is calling,

He’s calling you from a life of wasted years.”

God gifts us with life and then offers salvation, and daily power to live above the pull and destruction of sin. None of us are destined to live meaningless, empty lives. God has created us for significance – to matter. He gave all of us the power to make choices. And as we journey through life, the choices we make determine our outcome. Don’t live without Jesus. Make your time on earth count! Make Him the center of your dash!

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