The Fragility of Life

Yael Eckstein  |  August 30, 2020

High angle view of a couple sitting at a table praying together.

I lead a blameless life;
    deliver me and be merciful to me.

My feet stand on level ground;
    in the great congregation I will praise the LORD. — Psalm 26:11–12

In honor of my father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, and his lifework helping Christians understand the Jewish roots of their faith, I offer you one of his devotional teachings from the beloved Psalms.

Life is fragile, isn’t it?

One minute a person can be going about his daily routine, and then suddenly, heaven forbid, he can find himself lying in a hospital bed. One moment we can be planning a vacation, and the next moment we find out that we are out of a job and cannot afford it. This is the scary reality of life. But that shouldn’t make us feel bad or make us fearful of living and loving.

Rather, the knowledge that we are completely vulnerable should serve as a catalyst for us to turn toward our God. Through Him we are strengthened, emboldened, and at peace. Without Him, we are like leaves in the wind, caught up in the whirlwind of life, not knowing where we will land or what will happen next.

It’s this balance between feeling vulnerable and feeling protected by the Lord that every believer must seek. A colleague who served as the rabbi of a large congregation once explained this concept to me this way. He said, “My job is to make uncomfortable people comfortable and comfortable people uncomfortable.”

It goes without saying that the role of clergy is to soothe the hurting and to provide them with reassurance that God is by their side. However, it is equally as important to wake up comfortable people from their spiritual slumber. There is a danger in feeling too secure in life. When we feel invincible, we are less likely to turn toward God.

This is what King David was getting at in the last verse of Psalm 26. He wrote, “My feet stand on level ground.” However, a more literal translation from the original Hebrew reads, “My foot stands on level ground.”

What’s the significance?

King David was simultaneously pointing out God’s divine protection and also man’s vulnerable condition. On the one hand, God can smooth out our bumpy roads and solidify our shaky ground. On the other hand, it is as if we are always standing on one foot, not two. At any moment we, as fragile human beings, are liable to tip over and fall. If not for God’s merciful protection, we might be down on the ground. This verse seeks to comfort us, yet also gives us a healthy dose of discomfort so that we may never forget our reliance on God.

Today, more than ever, we are able to create an illusion of invincibility. Once upon a time, we drove without cellphones or GPS systems. We hoped to God that we would be able to find our way and that everything would be all right. We can certainly enjoy these helpful tools, but we must never forget that God is our ultimate GPS — Guide, Protector, and Savior.

Your turn:

It would be a privilege and honor for me to take your prayer to the holiest site in all Israel — the Western Wall — and pray for you. Please submit your prayer request today!