What if You Had Only One Month to Live?

I’m a big fan of “What if” questions. The singular benefit I’ve gained from asking “What if” questions have been my ability to live life with greater intentionality, clarity, and focus.


So, if you’ve never thought about the following question – I wholeheartedly invite you to embrace this life-changing question.

What if…. you had only 30 days to live on this earth?

What if…. after this month, your life will cease to exist?

Would your priorities, values, and perception of time change at all? Or, would you be the same person as you are today?

Now, I don’t expect you to shout out an immediate question to this. In fact, I’d be surprised if you’d had the ‘definitive’ answer. This may seem rather like a morbid question especially if you’re a Millennial like me. I mean, who honestly wants to entertain this thought of living only one more month? It may sound silly, facetious, a worthless idea to think about.

But, stop right there. What if you really, really, really had one month to live? What would you do the same and what would you do differently?

Kerry and Chris Shook has a book called “One Month to Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life.” The book encourages readers to sign-up for the One-Month-to-Live Challenge. The purpose of this Challenge is to read each chapter a day and reflect life as if you only have 30 days remaining. Before the start of the challenge, the authors ask to write three things you’d like to change if you would had one month to live.

Prior to this challenge, I’ve put some thoughts into this and here’s my top three:

1.       Start sharing my life story with others who also have been living with fear of death, such as terminal cancer patients etc.

2.       Film a documentary of the last 30 days of my life and broadcasting it posthumously. I want to entitle the documentary – “Lost, but Found: How Purpose and Calling Defeats Death”

3.       Stop wasting time with unproductive, addictive, negative habits. (Stop wasting time on ephemeral desires such as watching TV shows, social media.) Instead fill those times with people I love. Express love and share life with them.

I promise there are two key important lessons why you want to join this challenge.

1. Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.

Many of us live under the façade that life will have no end. Our minds grasp the abstract knowledge that all humans will die, but if you’re in your twenties like me, this idea probably will not haunt you – forcing you to live every moment with a sense of urgency. Besides, the culture of this world encourages us to “dream big,” “shoot for the stars” “live and enjoy life.” All these statements are half-truths in which something critically is missing. The Psalmist is spot on: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Living every moment as if there is no consequence to our choices is a global epidemic. Just look around the world. The enormous U.S debt crisis, the $ of debts for average credit card holders etc. We need to remind endlessly ourselves that as Rick Warren says “life on earth is a parenthesis of eternity” – that the choices you and I make today and tomorrow will have consequences. And, these choices add up day by day, which makes the consequences far bigger for us to escape.

 2. Leave a legacy that precedes and outlives you.

In Victor E. Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning,” he chronicles his life story in the concentration camps where he observed that every man has a desire to be known, to be someone who will be remembered, to be a man of purpose. The truth is, you and I have an expiration date on this earth – the real question is, “Why are you here and what will you leave behind?” When you embark on this 30-day challenge you’ll re-evaluate the legacy you’ll want to leave. Here’s two examples of godly vs. ungodly legacy.

A great example of this is Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan Preacher from the 1700s.  Jonathan and his wife Sarah left a great godly legacy for his 11 children. At the turn of the 20th century, American educator and pastor A.E. Winship decided to trace out the descendants of Jonathan Edwards almost 150 years after his death.  His findings are astounding, especially when compared to a man known as Max Jukes.  Jukes’ legacy came to the forefront when the family trees of 42 different men in the New York prison system traced back to him.

Jonathan Edwards’ godly legacy includes:

1 U.S. Vice-President,
3 U.S. Senators,
3 governors,
3 mayors,
13 college presidents,
30 judges,
65 professors,
80 public office holders,
100 lawyers and
100 missionaries.

Max Jukes’ descendants included:

7 murderers,
60 thieves,
50 women of debauchery,
130 other convicts.
310 paupers (with over 2,300 years lived in poorhouses)
400 who were physically wrecked by indulgent living.

It was estimated that Max Juke’s descendants cost the state more than $1,250,000.

The two contrasting stories of Edwards and Juke’s may seem like an far-fetched example of two legacies, but I still this the point is valid. One person’s legacy can have a profound, life-changing effect on their children and their children. In the big picture of life, one’s thoughts shape one’s beliefs; one’s beliefs turn into specific actions; those actions accumulate into concrete habits; habits frame your destiny; and your destiny determines which legacy you’ll leave after death.

If you find yourself in a stage in life where you are complacent with the current status quo, I invite you to embark on this 30-day journey with me – starting tomorrow!

In the next 30 days, I hope both you and I will discover greater insights into the fundamental pillars of intentional living – that is, “whose I am, who I am, why I am here, and where I am going.”

Question: What if you had one month to live, what three things would you change?