By Tim Hall
Fragile means “easily broken.” It well describes our lives.
She was a Christian woman with whom I’d been acquainted for many years. In recent months her husband battled some serious ailments. In that time, she developed some conditions of her own. It seemed she was doing better. But her husband woke up one morning and she did not. She was 81 years old.
He was a distant relative, a young man I’d never met. His great-grandfather was my grandmother’s brother. He was a husband and a father of two young children. The fact that he worked inside a coal mine suggests that he was in good health. But on the last day of 2006 he suffered a heart attack and died. He was 23 years old.
These two sketches of real people illustrate a principle we’ve come to know all too well: life is fragile. Though it may seem we’re in the prime of life, enjoying excellent physical health, conditions can change with blinding speed.
An undetected illness surfaces and carries a poor prognosis. An oncoming car fails to negotiate a curve and veers into our lane. A freak accident occurs on the job. Just when we thought life was going smoothly, the end comes.
James didn’t use the word fragile in describing the temporal nature of life but his image carries the same idea. He wrote:
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:13,14).
“A little time” may mean ninety years, but it may not. In view of eternity, any number of years begins to look puny. Even if we lived to be 500 it would be “a little time,” and then we would vanish away.
The lesson to be learned was not omitted by the inspired writer: “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that'” (James 4:15). His point: We need to live our lives in view of God’s will. And God’s will is that we be reconciled to him and live according to his will – every day.
This package contains items that can be easily broken. That’s why I ask the postal worker to handle it with care. Similarly, God warns us that our souls are enveloped in fragile containers. Before they break and spill our spirits into eternity, let’s make sure we’re ready.
Live in a constant state of readiness. And if we vanish away today or twenty years from now, we’ll welcome the appointment, knowing we’re heading home!