From paupers to pundits to preachers, reflecting on the fragility of human life has historically been a hackneyed enterprise. Add to that a teaspoon of nuclear weapons, a pinch of economic disarray, and a sprinkle of lingering pandemic, and it may easily turn into a platitude. Being human is, the truism goes, being fragile.
Our whole existence could potentially be upended with no warning or time to prepare. In the words of writer A. Manette Ansay: “At any moment the sky can open and drown us, the earth can open and swallow us. . . . Our bodies can betray us, the accidents and atrocities, the missteps and the misunderstandings.”1 Even in the best-case scenario, Moses prays, our “boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Ps. 90:10).
If we ever had second thoughts about Moses’ existential gloom, the past 20 months may have significantly contributed to changing our minds. Too many relatives and friends lost; a whiff of death seems to hound us to a point too close for comfort.
There seems to be a redeeming quality, however, in being aware of our fragility. Perhaps it is why God commanded Israel to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:33-43). Once the Israelites settled in Canaan, spending seven days in a fragile booth was certainly a hassle. But it was in such a state of precariousness—or one brought by sorrow, disease, or bankruptcy—when humans seem to separate the fleeting from the essential.
With God, a state of fragility engenders untapped sturdiness and a renewed acknowledgment of the divine. “Unless the Lord had helped me, I would soon have settled in the silence of the grave,” the psalmist wrote (Ps. 94:17, NLT).2 “When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer” (verse 19, NLT).
Finding strength in God does not overlook our plight this side of Paradise. We serve a God who “knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust” (Ps. 103:14, NLT). But even in our chronic state of unrelenting brittleness, He calls us to thrive in His power.
When instructing the Israel of old about the feasts, God commanded, “You shall rejoice before the Lord your God” (Deut. 16:11). Rejoicing is generally a natural consequence of an inner state of happiness. It is not usually the product of a command; it cannot be enforced. Yet God called Israel to rejoice.
Finding joy in fragility does not deny our actual state but, by faith, manages to see beyond. It is based on God’s faithfulness to His creation, not on our human devising. It is “why we never give up” (2 Cor. 4:16, NLT). Because “though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. . . . We fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (verses 16-18, NLT).
No bankruptcy or pandemic can ever obscure such a cemented hope.
Marcos Paseggi is senior news correspondent of Adventist Review.