Life Is Really Short

Published on June 9, 2010 by CT in Blog, Thoughts


I keep having these thoughts that life seems so terribly short.  They come most frequently first thing in the morning, and they are lightning bolt type thoughts—bright, powerful, elusive, and momentary.  I’ve been having these thoughts for several months now, and I realize I don’t yet know how to full put these thoughts into words.  I find them like a dream—vivid in memory and emotion, but hard to articulate clearly.

There’s some connection between these thoughts and my growing realization that this thing we call the Christian faith—a belief system and a way of life for many disciples of Jesus—is actually true.  I know that probably sounds silly, and you may feel that of course it’s true.  But I can’t help but wonder at the knee-bending, breath-taking thought that we have this one life, where we’ll work and live and move and marry and have kids and serve God.  And then life will end, and eternity will begin, and it will never stop.

I’ve felt this way before, and it drove me to a sense of urgency about living out my faith in a radical way.  But living out my faith in a radical way drove wedges in my relationships with others and with God because I willed myself to bear fruit rather than abiding in the Vine who produces fruit that lasts through me.

This time around, I know enough to not fall into the same trap, but I’m likely falling into some new trap I can’t even see.  I’m less anxious now, and less worried about making my mark on the world, even for God’s sake, and I’m more attuned to small joys—all the while becoming more and more aware of my own impermanence.  I suspect there’s a plateau or peak beyond this valley, one where I’ll come to depend on and commune with God in faith in a more tangible way.  But I’m also aware that I’m missing something right now—I just don’t know what.

James reminds us that life is a vapor, and we do well to remember his lesson.  And Jesus reminds us to abide and remain in Him, and we do well to remember His lesson too.  These are lessons the dead and the Living can teach us, and lessons our elders can share with us, because I suspect they have walked into and out of these kinds of valleys before.  That’s why it’s good to read old books, and it’s good to hang out with old people, neither of which I do often enough.

But ultimately, these are lessons my God will teach me if I continue coming to Him in faith.  Perhaps these thoughts are markings of a humbling process, a promise of the gospel, that dying to self will actually lighten my burden, because the yoke of my Master and Friend is easy and light.  May God grant each of us the grace and wisdom to know how to yield to Him in this way.

Question:  Do you have the sense that life is a vapor?  If so, how do you live out of that reality?  If not, how can you embrace this truth?

  • Elizabeth

    I often realize this, but for some reason I feel like I'm always fixated on what's next in life, instead of enjoying the moment. I know the "live for today" mantra is more secular/humanist than Christian in nature. But I think living for today with a purpose is more in line with James' teaching. It is interesting that Jesus also talked about the brevity of life and the necessity of living purposefully (e.g. in the parable of the talents). For me, I have to constantly ask myself, Where is my focus? And often, I'm not sure I like the answer to that question! Good post, Chris.

    • lauradroege

      I identify with your comment, Elizabeth, about being "fixated on what's next in life, instead of enjoying the moment."

      I've never been one to enjoy the present; I'm either fixated on my past or focused on the future, neither in a healthy way. (Shame and grief when I think of the past; worry and anxiety when I think of the future.) It sounds like you're not like me in that way, but I thought I'd share what thoughts your comment sparked in my head.
      My recent post What home remodeling taught me about dealing with conflict

      • Elizabeth

        Haha, Laura, I might be more like you than you think! But yes, why is it that we fail to enjoy the present? I've started to try to do this more in my life, and I've discovered a lot of it is linked to perfectionistic tendencies. I can't enjoy the guests at my house because I'm too worried about what's in the oven, for example. So, this week I tried an experiment and invited a neighbor over who could use a break. Truth was, I was tired, but I felt that I needed to make some oven fries to go along with our hamburgers and hot dogs. Well, I decided (after much deliberation) that I didn't want to be cooking when the family arrived. So, I did something BOLD! I set the table with paper plates and had my hubby pick up potato salad on the way home. No oven fries, no nice plates. But, I was able to enjoy my company and give them the attention the deserved.

  • Ray Hollenbach

    We don't often associate Moses with the Psalms, but he apparently reflected upon his life's span at least once: Psalm 90. he says, "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."

    Would you allow me one quibble with your post? You said, "life will end, and eternity will begin." I see your point, but I think it's important for us to realize that eternity begins now. We are already experiencing one kind of eternal life or another at this very moment. C.S. Lewis observed, "There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations–these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit–immortal horrors or everlasting splendours"

    I appreciate "Crave Something More." Please keep up the great work. Peace!
    My recent post Forever Unable to Change?

    • Chris_Tomlinson

      Ray, you're right on. Eternity, or perhaps spiritual immortality, begins for every life God creates. Great quote from Lewis, and thanks for making the point!