I received awful news this past weekend about the tragic and sudden death of a young man whose life ended far too soon. Naturally, those who knew and loved him are shaken terribly. All of us search for answers, reasons, and explanations, only to find none. The death of a young person jolts us back to the most sobering reality of all: life is short.

As I have thought and prayed through this tragedy, The Lord has reminded me of several things.

First, we all die too young. Life is short for all of us, even for those who are nearing the century mark. Scripture describes life as many things, but nowhere does it describe it as long. Vapor. Dying grass. Brief. So, whether a person is taken in his or her 20s or 80s, we all die too young. If only we could be mindful of this each day. If only we stopped taking the next day for granted.

Second, we all die too young and no one knows when it’s coming. Not one of us knows when our time will be up. Death is out of our control. It’s going to happen and it could happen at any moment. We’re not guaranteed even the next breath. The problem is that so few of us believe that. Or, if we believe it, we certainly don’t live like it.

Third, we all die too young and no one knows when it’s coming, so how will you live as a result? I’ll admit that I rarely consider that I could die young and unexpectedly. My naive expectation is to live forever, I guess. But, as I read the Scripture and simply pay attention to reality, it’s clear that life is short, no one knows when it will end, and that I have several choices to make as a result. Even if you don’t believe a word in the Bible, you know this is true.

Here are a few things to consider as you design your life according to reality.

Psalm 90:5-6, 10, 12. “They (our lives) are like grass that grows in the morning—in the morning it sprouts and grows; by evening it withers and dries up. Our lives last seventy years or, if we are strong, eighty years. Even the best of them are struggle and sorrow; indeed, they pass quickly and we fly away. Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.”

Take life seriously. It won’t last long. Be sober-minded and live with wisdom (which begins with recognizing that God is there and you and I must answer to him).

James 4:13-15. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.’ You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring–what your life will be! For you are a bit of smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, ‘If The Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'”

Since you don’t know what’s going to happen even tomorrow, perhaps it’s time to consult the one who does.

Hebrews 9:27. “…man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” What will you have to say to The Lord when you stand before him? That you were a good person? Jesus said it himself, no one is “good” but God alone. Good luck with the “good” defense.

John 14:6. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” Good won’t cut it, but Jesus will. He was good on your behalf. Sinless, in fact. Where you and I should pay for our sins, he canceled them and took all of God’s anger for us. Because of Jesus, we can be forgiven, covered, and promised life at the judgment. I cannot plead with you enough to recognize your hopelessness apart from him and surrender your life entirely to Jesus today.

We all die too young. Don’t be taken by surprise.

(Please continue to join me in praying for the family and friends of Mike Kozlowski, a young man who loved life, was a great friend and teammate, and who will be dearly missed).