What does it take to keep the human body alive? For one, you need just the right conditions. The air quality must be right, and the amount of nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere must be right. The positioning of the Earth in our Solar System needs to be right where it is to sustain life, lest the Earth freeze over or burn up under the Sun’s intense heat. For those living by the ocean, the moon flying over our planet ensures that the Earth is not overcome by chaotic tides. The world cannot be a giant desert or a frozen tundra either, so we need specific weather conditions where the temperatures are right and that we get just enough sunlight and just enough rain. We need water, lots of it, either in the rain to nourish crops, or to wash in so we don’t reek, or, most importantly, enough to drink so our bodies do not die. We can live weeks without food. The body can only survive three, maybe four, days without water.
Another thing to consider is living with each other. For human flourishing, the least risk of death lies in peaceful, healthy societies. Perhaps you are blessed enough to sleep without fear of someone killing you in your sleep. You may not have to be so concerned about that in the United States, but it’s far different if you’re living in countries like Syria. Other nations may have a higher risk of spreading diseases, where clean water is scarce and medical intervention limited.
Then there’s the functions of the body. Even when you may be lying around, your body is still working and working hard. The brain needs to keep sending signals throughout the body to survive, as well as ensure that you can feel, smell, see, taste, and hear. The immune system is always on the watch to fight off viruses and germs. The digestive system is intaking and expelling food, water, and toxins so that the body is nourished. It goes without saying too that your heart needs to keep beating and beat consistently. If it doesn’t, you die.
And yet, even when all these things may be working, even with the sun shining and the body working and the nation peaceful and healthy, you still aren’t guaranteed another day here. I’m sure you have known people (as I have), healthy and full of life, whom in the prime of their lives are taken, either from a random disease, or an accident, or was in the wrong place at the wrong time when someone was firing a gun, or from an act of nature no one had anticipated. There are some that have even died in their beds with no warning whatsoever. We are always at risk.
I hope you are not reading this thinking that this was written to scare you (well maybe a little), but rather to help us realize the fragility of life and how quickly it can so easily be snuffed. Many have lived their final day unaware that it was their final day. We make plans and arrangements on the assumption that we will be around to fulfill those obligations. There is no guarantee, however, that we will fulfill them. Man can only do so much. When we live, how we live, is not ultimately not up to us.
The only reason we do have our breath and being, as the Apostle Paul proclaimed, is because the Lord of the universe said so (Acts 17:27-28). The writer of Proverbs states also,
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
– Proverbs 16:9
It is He that created everything we see, and with wisdom that He established it (Gen 1, Job 38). It is He that has planned everything from the beginning to the end, even as man plots his own way (Psalm 2). Whatever He wishes He does (Psalm 135:6), and despite man meaning for evil, God means all for good (Gen 50:20). He declares everything from the beginning to the end, accomplishing everything He said he would do (Isa 46:10). This includes when we are born, where we live, what our jobs are, and when and how we will pass away. It is all in His hands and not ours.
What is ever more incredible to us is God’s permission to let man live even with our constant rebellion. The ages old question of why a good God would send people to hell is the wrong one to ask. It is rather: how does a good God allow a sinful man to live? If it is true that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23), and that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23), then none of us have any rightful claim to be here, let alone anything we have. Everything good in our lives is all out of God’s common love for man, including the placement of the planets for our thriving, as well as the gift to leave peaceably enough with each other and the biology of our bodies. That love is far more extraordinary for those whose faith is in the Lord, where through His Son the elect are spared from condemnation, not at all because He was obligated to, but because He wanted to. What love indeed!
I hope this humbles you, but I pray that this also gives you hope. If you are reading this now, this means that God has preserved you up to this point. You’re able to read and think about this, probably on a computer or smartphone powered with electricity, luxuries in our fallen world. He has kept your heart beating, has fed you, and preserved you. Despite your sin, you are still here! Despite any illnesses you are afflicted with or thoughts of depression or anxiety, you are still here! Even with everything going on in the world, all it’s wars and rumors of wars, natural disasters and human catastrophes, you are alive. That’s a tremendous blessing we take too much for granted today, especially in our modern culture of death.
Your life may not be easy, and as much as I wish I could promise you an easy existence, I cannot. But what I can assure you today is that if you live thanking God for His provision and rely on Him for the forgiveness of sins, He will help you persevere through this new year and beyond, and to do so with a song in your heart.
I hope you have a blessed and joyous New Year ahead!