We are bearers of the image of God. Consequently, we cannot deny it. Even if we believe that all is vanity, we long for there to be more meaning. We go beyond the flat desires on earth, seeking something more substantive. We must, for death comes for us all, and every one of us passes through the four stages set out in Thomas Cole’s paintings. Because all of us must face death, literature, art, and music often deal with this topic. But only the Christian perspective gives us hope. This is because God redeems what He allows—and He does allow sorrow and suffering. He shapes us more and more in His image through trials. Even though we cannot avoid death, it will not be the end of those who follow Christ. This world is not our ultimate home.
Watch part 3 of a teaching series based on Thomas Cole’s Voyage of Life. These four paintings depict the cyclical dynamics of human life, as signified by the artwork’s titles: Childhood, Youth, Manhood, and Old Age. You can view these paintings in person at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.