Psalm 144 (Psalms on the Trail)

"O Lord, what are human beings that you regard them, or mortals that you think of them? They are like a breath, their days are a passing shadow." Psalm 144:3-4

“O Lord, what are human beings that you regard them,

or mortals that you think of them?

They are like a breath,

their days are a passing shadow.”

Psalm 144:3-4

There is a worldview that perceives our life here as concrete and physically tangible, while whatever “after-life” there is will be something rather nebulous, maybe shadowy.  The psalmist has another worldview, that human life right now is the shadow that passes quickly, that there’s nothing concrete about us at all, that we’re just a breath compared to the span of God. The psalmist doesn’t say much about what might follow a human’s earthly passing shadow.

I have been thinking about what Jesus says about life, “eternal life” as he calls it.  For Jesus eternal life is not something that starts after a human’s earth life is over.  Eternal life is something that starts right now as we are connected to God—like branches to a vine (John 15).  Our life’s connection to God makes us more real, more tangible, more alive, and results in what Jesus and the Apostle Paul name as “fruit”—examples of which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  

So what if the part of our lives that is indeed a passing shadow is the sum of those disconnects from God that result in our impatience, stinginess, hatefulness, mean-spiritedness, and such? That is not true living.  According to Jesus (and Paul), that is a dying kind of life.  Real life that is connected to God, and therefore reflects God’s love, faithfulness, joy, etc., is a life that is far from a passing shadow, but is concrete, real, genuine and alive.  This doesn’t negate the reality of hate.  But hate and everything that goes with it are in the long run the “passing shadows” that one day will cease to exist.  Meanwhile love and the qualities that are its relatives are what’s truly tangible, lasting and real about this life.  They are what make up the “eternal life” existence which is now and which is our future.

If all this is true, one would think we would get totally caught up in investing in the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control kind of concrete life.  Speaking for myself, it’s just that I do still get sidetracked by the shadows even though they have no lasting substance.  Someday, however, I’ll walk beyond them.


1. Read the verse and reflect on its meaning for you.  What do you notice?  What do you wonder? What makes life truly real and alive for you?  What does “eternal life” mean to you?

2. Read all of Psalm 144 and see how this verse fits into the whole.

3. Or comment with a photo of your own that is a window of this psalm’s meaning for you.

The next post will be on Psalm 145.

Starting January 1, 2016, for 150 days I am posting an (almost) daily psalm verse with a photo that is a visual meditation on the text for me.  Each day a verse from the next psalm is chosen until all 150 psalms have been featured.   To participate you may subscribe to my blog at or “friend” me on Facebook and watch for the daily links to blog posts.  Disclaimer:  I am not a photographer and most of the photos are from a cell phone or small camera while hiking the Appalachian Trail or the C&O Canal/Great Allegheny Passage Trail.