One of the great sorrows of life is its brevity. This life is but a breath, a vapor, a mist that vanishes with the sun. Even the eldest among us dies too soon, for we were made to live forever. Yet, while it is right to lament life’s brevity, we can also find in it reason to rejoice. There are reasons to be glad that life is short. Here are four of them.
Because time is short, we will not sin for long. We contend against sin for as long as we live. We are saints, but sinners, people who have committed our lives to God but who still at times side with Satan. At many points the cry of every Christian is “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Our best thoughts are still imperfect, our most noble deeds still mingled with sin. But we can be comforted with the knowledge that our time is not long. We will battle pride for only a short while before the fight is won. We will battle unbelief for only a short while before our faith turns to sight. Death will come to us like the angel did to Peter—it struck him and his chains immediately fell off.
Because time is short, we will not labor for long. Our lives are full of hard labor—the labor of earning a living, caring for a home, raising a family, the labor of improving and conforming our minds. Hardest of all is the labor of the heart—to search it, cleanse it, and guard it. Sometimes our hearts hasten toward holiness and sometimes they hasten toward sin. Sometimes our hearts move to sin slowly and with reluctance and sometimes our hearts advance toward holiness only with the greatest exertion. But our comfort is that we will not be engaged in this grueling work forever, for we will soon rest from our labors (Revelation 14:13). When our bodies go to the grave, our souls go to rest.
Because time is short, we will not suffer for long. Life is full of trouble, full of suffering, full of sorrow. Job said it well: “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). You are as likely to separate weight from lead as to remove suffering from life. Each of us enters the world crying and leaves the world groaning, and between those times we carry a cross. Our comfort is this: Though we must bear a heavy cross, we have but a short way to carry it. Then death comes and brings the end of our lives and the end of our sorrows. “There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest” (Job 3:17).
Because time is short, we will not wait for long. Godly people will not be out of heaven for long. While the angels are blessed to enjoy God’s presence even now, we remain imprisoned in our bodies for at least a little while longer. Here we desire God more than we enjoy him. But the time is short and in mere hours, days, or years we will will see him face to face. Then we will leave behind all the difficulties of this world to rest in him forever. Faith gives us an interest in God, but only death brings the full inheritance. Those foreign wagons came rattling to old Jacob so they could carry him to Joseph. In the same way, death comes rattling to the Christian, but only to carry him to the Father.
I will give the final word to Thomas Watson, whose work I adapted to form the heart of this article:
In that paradise of God, a Christian shall have more than he can ever imagine (Ephesians 3:20). He can imagine, “What if every mountain were a pearl, every flower a ruby, every sand in the sea a diamond, the whole globe a shining gem?” But all his thoughts are too low and dwarf-like to reach the glory of the celestial pyramids. The heavenly reward (as Augustine said) exceeds faith—and, as the time is short, a Christian shall be in heaven before he is aware. Then he shall bathe his soul in those perfumed pleasures of paradise, which run at God’s right hand forevermore!