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Mere Handbreadths

Mere Handbreadths

            LORD, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. (Ps 39:4-5)

Here’s an interesting wilderness survival tip: if you tuck in your thumb, extend your arm, rotate your hand, and measure how many palm widths fit between the sun and horizon—that’s how many hours of daylight are left. I was fascinated when I first discovered this. I tried it. It works. Daylight hours measured by handbreadths.

Much to my surprise, there’s a startling connection here with Psalm 39. “You have made my days as handbreadths.” What a quaint metaphor. (Was this “survival tip” millenniums old?) But even more poignant: aren’t our lives just like the setting sun? Appointed risings and appointed settings? Aren’t our times in God’s hands (cf. Ps 31:15)?

There’s a measure of awe in those thoughts. “LORD, please make me to know my end.” It is really only when we look at the end of our days that we understand how to best use today. It is healthy to ponder about death so that we know how to best live. Our time is fading. We are limited. Vapor indeed. Frail indeed. Are we ready?

But then there is also a measure of hope in those thoughts. Our greatest hope begins when the sun goes down. For we will not sleep for long. When this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Cor 15: 54-55) I am in His hands. I trust in His timing. He sustains me. Let me fulfill my duties and then . . . meet Him.


            Questions for Reflection:

How many more handbreadths do you think you have left in your life? How would you want to live out these remaining handbreadths?

Author: Sam Kuo