“the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7 (NIV)
The earth’s atmosphere is composed of nearly 21% oxygen. By contrast, the atmosphere on Mars is mere 0.13% oxygen—hardly enough to make that planet seem a likely place for life to exist. With every breath, our body’s energy production is increased as the red blood cells are infused with this life-sustaining element. Without sufficient levels of oxygen, our organs are at risk of being damaged. Considering what we know about life and the requirement for certain atmospheric conditions, how is it that some scientists still hope to discover life on a planet that is so barren and inhospitable? What is the key to discovering and/or cultivating life on Mars?
Perhaps this is the stuff of science fiction, but maybe there’s something of a spiritual truth hidden in our quest for life on other planets. If someday life was found on Mars, the first question most scientists would want answered is “how does it survive?”
On days when we feel overwhelmed, spiritually attacked, and utterly exhausted from living in an unwelcoming world, we may ask ourselves that very question about our faith. How does it survive? How does faith endure when for all intents and purposes we should have given up hope long ago? What is the spiritual equivalent of oxygen? What keeps the spirit and heart functioning enough to keep moving without losing ground?
The answer is found in God, and the work of his Holy Spirit. In ways I cannot explain or easily comprehend, I know that I have been given a way to breathe in fresh, pure oxygen in a place where the atmosphere is filled with carbon dioxide. I am able to survive because of what Christ has done for me. It is as though the hostile conditions of the Martian atmosphere have been converted into something that doesn’t leave me futilely gasping for breath.