“Tell me I’ve led a good life.”
Private James Ryan from the movie, “Saving Private Ryan”
This quotation is taken from the end of the epic movie, “Saving Private Ryan”. Most of us are familiar with the movie’s plot. Captain John Miller, played by Tom Hanks, and his men are given a mission to save Private James Ryan, played by Matt Damon, who landed in France with the initial Normandy invasion on D-Day. Ryan is one of four sons. His other three brothers were all recently killed in action in the war. The Army decides to retrieve Ryan and return him to his mother to give her comfort. When Miller and his men finally meet Ryan, he is understandably shaken by the news of his brothers but is determined to stay with his unit and complete his mission. Miller and his team join him and most, including Miller, are killed. Miller’s last words to Ryan were, “Earn this. Earn it.”
At the end of the movie, Ryan, now an old man, is visiting the gravesite of Captain John Miller, played by Tom Hanks. He remembers what Miller told him and overcome with emotion, asks his wife, “Tell me I’ve led a good life.” His wife reassures him that he did. In spite of her answer, his tears cannot dispel the guilt he feels for the sacrifice of so many who came to save him.
This is not what the patriarch Jacob said to Pharaoh.
And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.”
Genesis 47:9 (NKJV)
Jacob lived his life, tricking and conniving his family and adversaries. Now at one hundred and thirty years, he could look back and recognize that it was only through God’s grace and mercy that he was able to stand before the Pharaoh and be reunited with his son, Joseph, whom he thought was killed many years earlier. Although he was the patriarch of the future nation of Israel, he did not believe he lived up to expectations of God. It was not his cleverness or good fortune, it had always been God.
Some of us judge the worth of our life based upon living up to the expectations of others. This is certainly commendable and honorable. Private Ryan wanted to make sure the sacrifices of Captain Miller and his men were not in vain and he tried to live a life that was worthy and meaningful.
Jacob judged his life based upon how God viewed his life. In this life, we all have a choice to make our life count for something greater than ourselves. Jesus Christ placed the needs of humanity ahead of His own life and willingly died on the Cross, receiving the penalty of our sins that we justifiably deserved. Three days later, He was resurrected from the grave, forever conquering death and proving that salvation and forgiveness of our sins are only through faith and trust in Him.
Only Jesus Christ lived a truly good life.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.