Life is Fleeting

Alexander the Great

In the account of the life of Alexander the Great recorded by the ancient writer Plutarch, the great exploits of this man are told. One of the first to conquer the “four corners” of the known world at still a young age, a story is told and has become tradition of Alexander’s realization of this accomplishment. It is said that, after looking from the peak of a mountain at the kingdom that was his that stretched for as far as the eye could see, he wept for “there were no more worlds to conquer.”

Whether this account is true or not is not as important as the attitude by which it conveys that even for those who achieve great (and terrible) things, there comes a point when their accomplishments are finished and nothing is left. For those who seek to leave a lasting impact upon the world this can cause great depression. For those who realize that life is but a “vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14, NASU), this can be most unsettling.

What is Our Purpose?

Such a transient and short existence might even lead one to question the purpose of man altogether. Solomon spends much time emphasizing a universal truth of life that “all is vanity and striving after wind” (Eccl. 1:14, 2:11, et al.). This is furthered by his personal exploration of all this life has to offer and finding it lacking in meaning and permanence. Other Biblical writers similarly ask of God why man is worthy of any consideration at all. “What is man that You magnify him, and that You are concerned about him?” (Job 7:17; cf. Psa. 8:4).

The truth about life is something all must one day face in some fashion. Facing the reality of one’s own mortality can be the most jarring experience of one’s life. What is most important, however, is what changes such an encounter from despair and fear to contentment and joy. This contentment with life cannot come through accomplishment, nor can it come through personal achievement.

An Answer

To answer Job’s question, God is concerned with man not for what we can accomplish in 80ish years, but for whether we will choose a relationship with Him to last the ages. Part of the realization that life is fleeting is accepting that this life is but a fragment of our existence. Contentment comes from knowing where will spend the rest of our eternity and trusting in God to take us there.

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