Embracing the Brevity and Transiency of Life

Text: Psalm 103:15-19

“Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” James 4:14 (NLT)

On the bookshelf in my office are several wooden carved ducks and sculptured birds that had been handcrafted from my great uncle, Henry Bird. “Uncle Dick,” as he was called, used to make these from his farm at the corner of Henry Bird RD and Gateway RD in Whittier, North Carolina, and then send them to family members spread out across the states. I used to love getting these when I was a young boy growing up in Maryland.

Uncle Dick passed away in 1990. His old farm was recently leveled and replaced by a newly built Pepsi distribution center. As I look at the before and after pictures of this location, I am reminded that everything in this world is transient.

One hundred years from now, the house you live in may no longer exist. The company you work for may no longer be in business. The church building you worship in and the school your child attends may have been replaced by something altogether different. Benjamin Franklin said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” But the Psalmist reminds us of at least two other certainties—change, and the steadfast love of the Lord.

Psalm 103:15-19 says:

As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.

As seasons change and nature’s beauty flourishes and fades, so is the existence of our lives; we come and go, and the place we once held “knows it no more.” This verse has also been translated “its place remembers it no more” (NIV), “its place acknowledges it no longer” (NASB), and “one can no longer even spot the place where it once grew” (NET).

This may sound depressing to some, especially for those who are struggling feverishly to build their own empires and earthly legacies, but it doesn’t have to be a saddening reality. It is healthy to remember that our lives are a vapor (James 4:14), that our days are like a passing shadow (Psalm 144:4), and the things that we now see are transient (2 Corinthians 4:18).

God wants us to contrast this humbling reality with more joy-filled eternal certainties: The LORD has established his immovable throne in the heavens, from where his everlasting kingdom rules over all the earth. He promises his steadfast love from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him. For those who keep his covenant, God ensures a righteous covering over their children’s children. For those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, He has promised a future and perpetual habitation in heaven, far removed from all evil, pain, and injustice (Revelation 21:1-8). These things will never change!

Accepting the reality of our transient lives, along with God’s eternal truths, can help us to apply our hearts to wisdom in the daily grind of our fleeting days (Psalm 90:12). Think about that as you seek to abide in Him this week!


Heavenly Father, it is a healthy notion to recognize our lives as transient. Your perfectly redemptive plan involves a glorious transition from this broken and fleeting world to a perpetual and incorruptible one. Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sins on the cross—that we would be redeemed and adopted into this everlasting kingdom. In His name we pray, amen.

Questions for Reflection and/or Family Discussion:

  1. What kinds of feelings are evoked in you when you revisit places from your childhood or take a stroll down Memory Lane?
  2. What do you look forward to most about being in Heaven?
  3. What thoughts or impressions come to mind when you are reminded that your life is like a fleeting shadow, a temporary flower, or a momentary vapor?
  4. In what ways can coming to grips with our transient lives be healthy to how we live from day to day?
  5. How should the brevity of life affect how we invest our time, talents, and money for the kingdom of God?

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