- possibility of loss or injury: peril
- someone or something that creates or suggests a hazard
- the chance of loss or the perils to a subject matter of an insurance contract also: the degree of probability of such loss.
When you are young, risk seems like an interesting topic. It sounds like something you might encounter climbing a tree or on a snowboard, but life is full of risk. If you search the internet, you will find many different types of risk to choose from such as personal, financial, and business and as many ways to manage that risk. Our ability to manage risk is something we learn to do as we get older. For example, sitting on your La-Z-Boy recliner watching TV does not pose a lot of risk (unless that’s all you do), but driving on the freeway increases your risk substantially. Every day we make dozens of risk management decisions without even thinking about it.
“He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.”Ecclesiastes 11:4-6
Taking chances is a part of life. I can still remember the first time I asked a girl on a date. I was thirteen and I had it all planned. I would ask Denice Gleason to see “Planet of the Apes” and my mom would drive us to the theater. My heart was racing, and my hands were sweaty as I approached Denice. I made some nervous small talk and then I popped the question…
Looking back, most of the decisions I would make in life have followed a similar trajectory. Clearly define the goal, weigh the risk versus reward, plan the approach, and then implement the plan.
There are four basic ways to manage personal risk:
- Assume risk – This means that you are personally responsible for whatever consequences occur because of your action. This would be like walking a high wire without a net.
- Avoid risk – This would be the person who never leaves their recliner. The old saying “The higher the risk, the higher the reward” also works in reverse.
- Shared risk – An example of sharing risk would be carrying a high deductible on your auto insurance. If you are involved in an accident, you pay the deductible, and the insurance company covers the rest
- Transfer risk to someone else – For people who can’t tolerate any risk they can transfer that risk to another party. For example, what if I asked someone else to ask Denice on a date for me? The chances of her saying “Yes” would be lower but if she said “No” I would have avoided the heartache of being turned down face to face.
One of my favorite Bible characters is the disciple Peter. Like me, his heart was in the right place, but he made mistakes. He loved Jesus but denied Him three times the night He was betrayed. He was flawed but God still loved him. Peter took risks but sometimes he fell short of his goal. In the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John we can read of Jesus walking on the stormy waters to the fishing boat where the apostles were huddled in fear.
“He (Jesus) said, “Come.” So, Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”Matthew 14:29-31
Why is it that so many of us lose our faith when things don’t go exactly the way we planned?
And bad mistakesWe Are the Champions by Queen
I’ve made a few
I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face
But I’ve come through
My perspective on risk has changed over the past three and a half years. I think most people have an idea of how long they will live based on heredity, mortality tables or some preconceived notion that they’ve acquired through the years. I always thought that since my father died at 55, so would I. I can remember joking that when I turned 56, I was experiencing “bonus” years.
When I was diagnosed with cancer in June of 2017 the doctors told me I had from three to five years to live. Of course, these stats are based on studies of large groups and there are exceptions. A small percentage of men with stage 4 prostate cancer live a long life plus new drugs are being developed every day. Recently my PSA started to climb, meaning the cancer had returned, and I was given a new hormone therapy drug that is showing promise. As with my decision to be part of a clinical trial at NIH back in 2017, taking a new drug required a risk versus reward decision. The drug, Enzalutamide, has been shown to be effective for an additional year or two but the side effects can be nasty.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”Romans 8:18
That said, the cloud of my own mortality still looms in every decision I make. I have faith and believe that God can heal me if it is His will. I wish I could say that I have every confidence that God will spare me, but I am a human being and honestly, there are days when my faith is not enough. Please understand that I love the Lord with all my heart and my faith is great but if it is my faith that heals me, if all I need to survive is have more faith, then who will be glorified; me or God?
“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”Romans 10:17
The risk-reward analysis for me has changed. For example, I have dear friends who have self-quarantined since the beginning of the COVID pandemic and rarely go out of their homes. There are good reasons to avoid crowds and if someone is older and has health issues, it makes sense not to take chances. I’m 65 and between my heart issues and cancer I should probably stay home more than I do. I’m also looking at a potentially shorter life span, therefore, I balance being careful with enjoying what time I have left. I know I’m taking more chances but by maintaining a physical distance, wearing a face mask, and washing my hands frequently the rewards outweigh the risk.
God has blessed me with a beautiful wife, loving children, and a grandson that I call Squirt. I have rewarding friendships that have lasted over thirty years. I love serving the Lord in my church and through my work with the Gideons. My younger brother and my sister-in-law are very close to Mary and I. Recently we discovered that we have a full brother, two years older than me, who lives in New York that we really want to spend time with. I have lived a full and rich life but there are still so many things that I want to do. At 65 I sense that God isn’t finished with me here on Earth!
By the way, Denice said “Yes” and went on that date with me but when my mom and I pulled up in front of her house she walked out with her little brother in tow. Not exactly what I had in mind for my first date but isn’t that how life goes?
“Believe the unbelievable
Receive the inconceivable
And see beyond my wildest imagination
Lord, I come with great expectations”Great Expectations by Steven Curtis Chapman