The Crosswalks of Uncertainty

A friend was driving me home yesterday after we had gone out for lunch. As we waited for the light to change, an SUV, ignoring the red light, raced through the intersection, just missing a child who was crossing the street. The driver did not even slow down. The incident reminded me of the times I have come close to being struck at the same intersection by drivers watching oncoming traffic but not paying any attention to the pedestrians using the crosswalk.

With yesterday’s incident fresh in my mind, this verse from Psalm 54 was especially meaningful this morning: “Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life” (54:4).

I have a neighbour who often responds to my greeting: “How are you?” by saying, “Well, I got out of bed this morning.” And most of us have heard the old chestnut: “I checked the obituaries in the paper this morning and my name wasn’t there so I guess I’m okay.” As we age we seem to spend more and more time looking over our shoulders wondering when death is going to catch up to us. More frequent visits to our doctors remind us of the fragility of the lives we live.

But the length of our lives is not necessarily connected to the length of our years. Last week, five young men from the US military were gunned down by another young man who, in turn, was shot to death. A little boy in Toronto died from a fall from a 15th floor balcony last week and a little boy here in my home town came too close to the same end.

Job, who knew the suddenness of death better than most, wrote: “Man’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed” (Job 14:5). But lest the bitterness of Job's experience add something unintended to his words, the psalmist implies the same when he asks God to help him use his time wisely.

Psalm 39:4, 5: “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you” (emphasis mine).

Psalm 90:10, 12: “The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away…Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

We need to live wisely. At the same time, we can’t cover ourselves in bubble wrap (a favourite expression of a friend of mine with parents prone to falls) or never cross the street or avoid public places where terrorists might lurk. And all the medications, chemical or natural, or the medical technological available to us, will not hold off the inevitable. “…Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” notes the writer to the Hebrews (9:27).

But the uncertainties of life, and death, should not cripple the believer. All reasonable precautions taken, we need to live our lives with Psalm 54:4 in mind. “…the Lord is the upholder of my life” is the anchor that keeps us stable and confident no matter what life, or death, brings. When we experience forgiveness and restoration through faith in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross on our behalf, we need have no fear of judgment. But there is an added benefit that we can enjoy right now—the assurance that the life He has saved for eternity is already in His hands today, tomorrow, and all the tomorrows after that.

The Lord is indeed, “the upholder of my life.”

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