Authored by Tina Kapp
Most people have heard the acronym “YOLO” thrown around for the past couple of years. It stands for “You Only Live Once.” Pop stars and celebrities have made it a catchphrase to promote doing crazy things or taking risks because, hey, “You Only Live Once!”
It’s an attractive thought. Why worry about the future? Why subscribe to having to answer for decisions we make when we can pretend it all doesn’t matter anyway? Why can’t we only be concerned about what makes us happy right now?
Well, when you get older, you realize that life doesn’t work like that, and you start having to pay for the decisions you made earlier. In most cases, those who live life with that motto begin wishing they had thought about the long term a bit sooner.
I remember struggling with my weight as a teenager. I hated feeling overweight. I didn’t get chosen for local school dance teams and often felt insecure. I thought about it constantly. Did that stop me from overeating unhealthy food when I had the opportunity? No sirree! At that moment, all I cared about was that it was yummy and I wanted it! When confronted with some delectable delight, all thoughts of being healthy magically disappeared … until I ate the yummy snack, and then got depressed that I was fat again. Not the brightest move, I’m sure you’ll agree.
That is exactly the recipe for “living in the moment” with no thought for your future. Seems to me that if we only have one life, we need to make the most of it rather than waste it by trying to have as much fun as we can and take as many risks as possible.
Now that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t enjoy life. God doesn’t want us to be miserable. In Psalms, King David says, “Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!”1
Nehemiah famously said, “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”2
Since we only have one life, what do we want to do with it? What do we want to be remembered for? What would be a life that we can look back at and be proud of? The well-known saying “Carpe Diem” (Latin for “Seize the Day”) has a positive feel to it. It’s the same rationale that you only live once, but rather than taking it as a reason to do crazy things, ignore consequences, and live for the now (which I’ll call YOLO days), it means to go further, to do more, and to not waste the day (which I’ll call Carpe Diem days).
Imagine a whole month of YOLO days. How would you feel afterwards? How much closer to your dreams would you be? Now imagine a month of Carpe Diem days. Which month would take you further on the path of where you want to be long term?
Life is made up of lots of days. Some will be more fun and chilled, while others will be hard work. Think of every Olympic gold medalist. The day that they compete and win will go down in history, and I bet it will remain as one of the best days of their lives. But to get there, it took hundreds of days of training, hard work, and focus. Think of your favorite musician playing to a massive audience. Again, they only got there through days of faithful practice, rehearsals, and playing for anyone who would listen until they got their big break.
All our favorite Bible characters experienced something similar. Think of Noah building the ark or Joseph saving Egypt from starvation. The good days didn’t come from them sitting around only doing what they felt like and enjoying the YOLO days. It took hard work and planning so that when the time came, their single life would save many more and leave its mark on the world.
A classic example that comes to mind is the parable Jesus told and that I used to sing about as a kid.3 The one about the two men who built houses; one built on the sand and the other built on the rock. Now, I’m no builder, but I can imagine that building on the sand would be much faster. It’s soft and easy to dig in. You could probably get your house up much faster than the guy having to build on more solid material, like rock. Maybe the sand guy had cool places to be and more fun things to do, so he wanted to get it done and out of the way. “You only live once,” I can imagine him saying, “so I don’t want to waste too much time working.”
The other guy knew if he did it right the first time, it would last longer. He made sure that he built his structure to endure.
Sure enough, as the story goes, when the rains came and the wind blew, the house on the sand collapsed. Mr. Sand Builder had to start all over again while Mr. Rock Builder could sit in his nice warm house protected from the storm.
Seizing the day because we only have this life means living it to the full. It means making choices so that whenever your time comes, you can be proud of what you’ve done. Not only in physical accomplishments but in the friends you’ve made, the kindness you showed others, the lives you’ve touched in some way, and the memories you’ve created. This will be how others will remember you.
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”4 He wants us to experience God’s love and the many blessings that He gives us every day. He intends for us to do something positive with the life He has given.
A real shiner in the YOLO department was the prodigal son in the famous parable.5 He didn’t want to wait for his inheritance. He wanted to party and have fun now. He pestered his father for his share of his inheritance and then immediately “set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.”6 I’m sure he had a fabulous time … until all the money ran out, and with it all his so-called “friends.” They left him in rags, begging for food, when he had nothing left.
Ecclesiastes warns us, “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.’”7
All of the choices we make have consequences—from little things like eating vegetables, to studying and working hard toward a goal, to living a godly life. Understanding that now can help you make wise decisions and have something wonderful to show for it at the end of the day.
Don’t let life pass you by. Make the most of it so that you can look back and be encouraged by what you’ve accomplished.
1 Psalm 144:15 NKJV
2 Nehemiah 8:10 NKJV
3 Matthew 7:24–27
4 John 10:10 NKJV
5 Luke 15:11–32
6 Luke 15:13 NIV
7 Ecclesiastes 12:1 NKJV
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2016 by The Family International