Filed Under:  Columns, Opinion

Is it predetermined when our time is up?

3rd February 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Fr. Jerome LeDoux
Contributing Columnist

After reading my column on Our Mother Of Mercy Church Member Jerome “Jerry” Lefede Thomas, longtime friend Merle Ozenne emailed me the following query.

“The question is this…’ Do we come here to earth with predestined expiration dates?’ I just heard of a sudden death of a healthy man of 76 who had a blood clot that went to his lungs…was hospitalized.. and all was done for him that could be…but he didn’t recover from it. This was Les’ youngest brother, Gary Theard. This was shocking, as often death is when it comes to friends and family members. (Of course, the biggest shock to the family was my nephew, Ronnie’s sudden passing at the age of 33.) If you have any time to spare, I would please like to know your thoughts in this regard?”

No one is born with a predestined expiration date, with the exception of Jesus Christ who tells us in Matthew 20:28, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” We will all die, unless we are still alive at the time of the rapture of 1 Thessalonians 4:17, but only Jesus was born in order to die, that through his death we might be carried through our trials here to eternal life hereafter.

Our date of demise is foreknown by God. However, that does not mean that God causes it, just as God did not cause our parents to get together and to bring us into this world. Certain, irrefutable foreknowledge of an impending event does not cause it. While as Christians we do believe that the hand of God’s providence is in everything, that does not exclude the dynamic interaction of many factors, some beyond our control.

Genetics is one of the most influential factors in determining our lifespan. On the other end of the scale is our personal environment. Thus we say, “Nature sets the limits of our assets, while nurture determines how much and how deeply we can develop them.”

Whether nature or nurture is greater depends on numerous factors and variables.

So, all things being equal, such as genes (nature) and environment (nurture), one would expect people with all such equal factors to die more or less at the same age. Yet, we know that life does not work in that fashion. Our free will moves strongly into the mix, folks. You are probably smiling for the first time in this rather somber discussion.

Truth to tell, this discussion uncovers much to smile about and much to puzzle over. For instance, a heavy smoker destroys the idea of and the odds on a predetermined expiration date for his/her life. Smoking is a free choice that tinkers with life and flirts with death. Heavy drinking runs a close second to smoking in living out a death wish.

Ditto for other drugs like cocaine, heroin, meth, barbiturates, angel dust, ecstasy, etc.

But lo! Such drugs are not the main cripplers, disablers and killers that we invite into our everyday life. Consider food addiction that easily outpaces the hardest and most destructive of all drugs. Put another way, what substance is fatal to the greatest number of humans by triggering cardiac, vascular, cancer, pressure, pulmonary and diabetic issues?

No one wants to admit that food can be and is the most widely abused of all the things we can ingest. Not food! After all, laughter is not the best medicine. Laughter is the best medicine only after food that is chosen well and consumed in proper moderation.

The huge catch, of course, is that the food must not be full of cholesterol, sugar or salt.

Not enough people stop to ponder that their life has a conditional expiration date because they are hastening the date by their antics of drugging themselves into illness or oblivion, or eating their way into an early grave. To some extent, often to a great extent, we can adjust that conditional date by adjusting our intake of food, water and chemicals.

“God helps those who help themselves!” observed sharp-witted Mark Twain in Biblical-sounding fashion. Translation: Give God a little hand in looking out for us. This self-help can account for a better outcome in the majority of health histories and cases. The problem is that food is the world’s wiliest seducer and the most astute self-apologist, enticing food and drink abusers to manufacture every excuse imaginable for their abuse.

On the other hand, genetics or environment, or a combination of both, plus tragic accidents as well, wipe out a considerable number of infants before they can live at all, or leaves young people and middle-aged victims with the feeling that fate has cheated them out of many years. Yet, we must be grateful for any years whatever granted us by God.

At times, we are at a loss to understand unexpected premature deaths, especially in cases where those taken have done all that is reasonably in their power to promote their physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual well-being. Since we all have the same problems, we humans must cling to God and each other as extended family, sharing bits of wisdom about the best means to holistic health, ever lifting each other in prayer.

This article originally published in the February 3, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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