When the earthquake disaster of March 2011 hit Japan, US President Obama went to national television and said, “Today’s events remind us just how fragile life can be”. He was stating the obvious—life can be fragile and unpredictable. Life can change quickly in the blink of an eye, and we have seen that happen time and time again. We could call it ‘the ebb and flow of life’, which brings sudden changes in seconds.
Life is fragile, unstable and unpredictable. Life can change so quickly, and we are left thinking, I thought I was in control of my life. We can wake up one morning and discover life has changed, and what can we do about it? One day everything in your life is going well, the next day everything has fallen apart. One day it appears that there is no hope for your situation, the next day your problem has been solved. It is true that many changes can occur over the course of one day.
The Lost Civilisation
A few years ago there was a newspaper article telling what happened in one place of the shifting sands of the Sahara Desert. Over time, there was evidence of the remains of an ancient city. Archaeologists went in, dug and sifted, and eventually declared it to be very old, some 3,500 years at least I seem to remember, and a civilisation they had never heard of. The account captured many people’s imagination. Imagine that: a city, a whole civilisation even, just disappeared, lost for thousands of years. Hundreds, thousands and thousands of people—who lived and loved, argued and hated, procreated and died just as we do—vanished, gone from human memory even, until shifting sands reveal it again to the idle curiosity of the late 20th or early 21st century.
- Who were those people?
- What were their lives like?
- What did they dream about, hope for, long for, despair of?
Life is fragile—we need to handle with care. Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” It was a prayer of Moses—the only Psalm written by him.
Moses was someone who was very familiar with how fragile life could be. He had witnessed hundreds of Egyptians get swept away in the Red Sea. He’d seen a whole generation of Israelites die in the desert. His whole life had been one of transition—having to flee from Egypt, then coming back, and then going into the desert for 40 years. At the end of his journey, Moses himself would also face death before ever getting to enter the Promised Land. This Psalm addresses that very topic of how fragile life is, and what we can do about it.
We want life to be permanent—we long for security and safety for ourselves, for our children. But life can come apart—anytime, someone we love may be dying. We witness a car smash, fail an important exam at school or we are made redundant at work, or have unusual aches and pains. The life of unknown circumstances can push us over the edge. But when we think about it, the shortness of life helps us to put things into perspective, and we remember what really matters.
Only God Knows Our Future
King David wrote in Psalm 39:4-6: “Please, Lord, show me my future. Will I soon be gone? You made my life short, so brief that the time means nothing to You. Human life is but a breath, and it disappears like a shadow”. We might take each day for granted, assuming there are many more to come—but we don’t know for sure what will happen tomorrow. James 4:14 says, “What do you know about tomorrow? How can you be so sure about your life? It is nothing more than a mist that appears for only a little while before it disappears”.
In other words, don’t take your life for granted. Life is fragile. We agree subject to the quirks and circumstances of life. But when we see that we are in God’s hands, each day is his gift to us. It’s like Corrie Ten Boom’s advice: ”Don’t draw up a plan and then ask for God’s signature; find out what His plan is, then put your name on the list”.
“What do you know about tomorrow? How can you be so sure about your life? (James 4:14)
Because life is so fragile, we need a God who is permanent, from everlasting to everlasting. Job realised the hard way how fragile his life was when major issues happened to him and his family. And he cried out, “What strength do I have, that I should hope? And what is my end, that I should prolong my life?” (Job 6:11 – JUB)
He was looking for answers, and eventually he found some. Life can change quickly, in the blink of an eye. A famous poem says:
I have only a minute, only 60 seconds in it
Forced upon me, didn’t choose it, didn’t seek it, can’t refuse it.
So it’s up to me to use it, Have to suffer if I lose it.
Pay a price if I abuse it. Just a tiny little minute, But eternity is in it.