“O LORD, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah
Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!”
Neil DeGrasse Tyson said that he finds it hard to believe in God, much less a loving God, when the universe is out to kill you. Much as I don’t agree with his viewpoints on a lot of things, I could understand why he said what he said… specifically about this universe. The way I see it, ever since the fall of man, and ever since Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, sin not only entered into them and effectively cursed the rest of humanity that was to emerge from them… no, as if that wasn’t bad enough, Romans 5 mentions that sin entered this world. I’d stretch that a little further by saying sin entered this reality – and not only did it ‘enter’, but it full-on infected and saturated this reality.
You could be walking out in the woods when a ‘widow maker’ branch lands right on top of you and crushes you, of all the times and places it could fall. I’ve heard of entire families being slain after silent mud slides: During typhoons there are chances of entire mountainsides eroding, engulfing and literally burying entire houses.
The imaginative (yet fictional) Calvin imagines how it is possible for an entire train to be sent hurtling into the sky after hitting a quarter on the rails… and in the rest of the Sunday comic spread Bill Watterson takes creative liberties to illustrate how the train (and a plane whose engines have failed) will crash in the exact spot where the earth’s tectonic plates shift; it happens to be the house of Farmer John, who is about to light a stove, unaware of a gas leak. Before he strikes the match he looks outside his window… and his eyes twitch involuntarily.
While Calvin holds up his toy train and plane, Hobbes is around, asking, ‘Can we play something else?’
…Unfortunately, Hobbes, we can’t. It’s a fact that anything and everything in this world is out to kill us – and it’s amazing how we are able to go on with our lives with the real probabilities of something happening to us or our loved ones with every second we exist in this world. But is it all because of the universe being ‘out to kill you’, as Mr. Tyson would say?
No, I say it goes deeper than that. Consider that at the beginning of time and in the second/eternity it took to create anything and everything there is, God created all of it and said that it was all good. This reality wasn’t created to kill us – it was because of the disobedience of one man that sin entered, and as a result, this universe has turned into a cosmic house of horrors full of iniquity and all sorts of atrocities, natural and man-made.
And I suppose it would be right for us to remember all of this every now and then – memento mori, as Marcus Aurelius would say. We ought to remember that there is the real possibility of our death happening at any moment – Roman emperors came to this realization, and apparently, so did David… but he took it a step further by actually expressing that God should actively remind us of how fleeting we are, compared to us realizing it as we go along with our lives, or what’s left of them.
‘Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!’
That certainly brings us to thinking, and meditating. But in this case we don’t stop at remembering our frame. We don’t stop at remembering our frailty. Sting may sing that the rain would share of how fragile we are, and though it is a sobering thought, it’s all to bring us back to our place: First of all, we are in a world torn apart by sin, where anything and everything can happen at any given moment, and all aspects of our being in this fallen world can cease at the snap of our fingers. It just brings us to realize how our said aspects of our being, and our entire being, actually, is created – we are reminded in all this that we are creation, which brings us to realize how we are not only under the mercy of a violent universe, but more than this, we are under the One who created it all.
But, again, it doesn’t stop there. For it is in these moments that we seek solace, and it is in the Truth that we find it. We need not look too hard to find the Truth that sets us free of the seemingly inescapable specter of death, oblivion and entropy – because it’s the Truth that sought us out before we even ever thought of looking for it in the first place. And ‘it’ isn’t a mindset, a principle – No, we have a living Truth that saved us. This Truth proclaims that the God who created it all, the God who is infinitely superior to us – He is not only great in power, but He has an equally infinite and everlasting love for each and every one of us.
Friends, as we walk through this reality, and as we survive in this world, we can find bold to find peace in this Truth. We stand on the claim of God’s goodness towards us, only because of Christ – who He is, and what He has done for us. By Christ’s birth, death, resurrection and ascension we see how the Son of God Himself was subjected to the worst that this universe can throw at Him – He was tempted beyond anything we can handle for ourselves at one point. The Word says that He was despised by man – He was humiliated, scorned, hated, and brought to suffer the most painful and shameful of deaths, and yet He endured all of this, being fully aware that He became sin – yes, He BECAME the sin that saturated and cursed this reality, and He therefore paid ALL of its wages in full, draining the cup of suffering we all deserved.
This sin-soaked universe certainly ‘got’ Him… but even after it did its worst, death would not hold Him down, death could not hold Him down. For after 3 days He walked out of the tomb, risen, resurrected, recreated.
The story did not end at the cross. The story began at the empty tomb.
I go through all this, on this Saturday morning, to remind myself, that regardless of all my failures and my success, regardless of all the recent reminders of failure and frailty… that even at these moments, I can find peace, and a peace that is apparently beyond understanding – it’s found in the living Christ, in whom I am alive, and who is alive within me, not only ensuring my salvation and my existence beyond the end of time, but is also faithful to demonstrate how He works all things for my good, even within the boundaries of time and space.
In understanding the fleeting nature of wealth, I am reminded of the treasure that really matters.
In turmoil I am reminded of the Hope which serves as an Anchor for my soul.
As I see how we are as breath and shadow, I value the air that we breath, and the light that causes the shadows in the first place.
In understanding how my life is nothing compared to eternity, and how my days are as a few digits compared to infinity,
I appreciate that even if we are like this, we have our Creator, who is mindful of us.
In remembering my end I am reminded of my beginning.
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.”