Psalm 39:4–5 – Shortness of Breath

Psalm 39:4–5

4 Lord, make me to know my end; and what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am. 5 Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths; and my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Selah.

James 4:14

14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

Psalm 144:4

4 Man is like a mere breath; His days are like a passing shadow.

Anyone who’s met me can tell you that I am a little bit of a nerd, and in my nerdiness, I found that I love the TV series Stargate-SG1. It is a show about intergalactic travel through a large ring that is connected to others like it throughout the galaxy. It helps that the main character, Richard Dean Anderson, was on my favorite TV show growing up, MacGyver. I even had a mullet because of him. Yes, I know, I know…nerd. But what I do like about science fiction is that it has the ability to explore the world of the “what-if.” While most stories have to be grounded in familiar things about how the world works, science fiction can push beyond those limitations and ask “what if things operated more like this.” It allows the writers and producers to ask important questions about the human experience.

One such episode of SG-1 considers the lifespan of man. I worked as a funeral director for years, and one thing that I heard regularly at services was “they lived a full life.” This was a common way to console those grieving over 70, 80, or 90 year old loved ones who had passed away. As a 36 year old, that does seem like a long life, but is it really? If the average life span were 200 years, we would likely see a death at 70 as a tragedy, someone cut down mid-life. What if most lived to 1000 years, we would all be lamenting over all of the experiences that this young 70 year old life could have had, but was never able to.

In this episode of Stargate, the four central characters travel to the planet of Argos. It is not long after they arrive that they start to realize that this place is unique. A baby who was born shortly after they arrived is seen just a day later as a toddler. They come to discover that a year is like a day on Argos. A boy who appears to be twelve years old is actually only twelve days old. The Argonians all have a virus that shortens their life to a span of, at most, 100 days. Yet, they don’t know they have this virus and are perfectly content to live out their 100 days in a never-ending celebration of life. They seem to “live life to the fullest!” They follow infatuation quickly to marriage, have kids that get over the terrible twos in a day or so and are on their own in a few weeks, and I’m sure they are celebrated after a few months at their funeral for how full they lived their days. It wasn’t until these strangers, who live thousands of days, came into their world that they began to sense something might not be right. They began to realize that these strangers might have a cure for a sickness they never knew they had.

From the viewer’s perspective, we look at the Argonians and think “that is a shame.” We know that their lives were intended to be so much longer. Yet their obliviousness their reality is only matched by our obliviousness to our reality. You see we were made, not for 100 years, but for an eternity. From the eternal perspective of our God, our lives are like the 100 days. It is short, like a single breath or like a wisp of steam coming off a boiling pot of water. What would change if we had this perspective on our life? What if we viewed ourselves as thousands and hundreds of thousands of years beings? How would life here (this vapor, this breath) be different? Because we are eternal beings and 100 years is really very short, our lives should be marked by a sense of the eternal. It may just be enough to cause those around us who are dying from a very real and permanent virus called “sin” to want to pursue the cure.

May we know how fleeting our lives are and how to use the limited time we have on this earth to His fullest.

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