Why is life full of grief and ultimately death? This article points to sin as the cause of grief and death. It also points to Christ as the answer to grief and death.

2017. 3 pages.

Grief: The Impact of Sin

For what hath man of all his labour, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun? For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief

Ecclesiastes 2:22–23a

What an extraordinary and sweeping assessment Solomon gives us here of our brief journey on earth! It is remarkably similar to Moses’ assessment of life: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow” (Ps. 90:10). He too arrives at the sobering conclusion that the lives of men, even when they may reach the age of the very strong, are all filled with sorrow and grief.

In the days of Moses and Solomon, they would have been surrounded with abundant affirmation of their inspired conclusion. The preventive and interventional medical opportunities we take for granted today were non-existent. When people were ill or suffered from chronic afflictions, they lived with intense and debilitating pain. Furthermore, lives would often end prematurely because of illness. The prospect of death was a pervasive reality in every family. Men and women would die at an early age because of untreatable terminal illnesses; women would frequently die in childbirth; parents would bring children to the grave; and the loss of several spouses during one lifetime was not uncommon. When epidemics would strike, such as the infamous plague or lethal forms of influenza, staggering numbers of people would die and families would often be decimated.

What other conclusion could Solomon come to but that man’s days are indeed “sorrows, and his travail grief”? Because of the extraordinary advances in medical knowledge and practice, we now enjoy a measure of creature comfort unknown at any time during the history of our fallen world. Man in his foolishness dreams that our medical know-how will advance to such a level that illness and death can be eradicated and that a paradise here on earth will at last be within reach. In other words, fallen man dreams of eliminating all the consequences of sin so that he will be able to sin without consequences and thus eliminate all sorrow and grief.

What an elusive dream this proves to be, however! Even in 2017, in spite of all the sophistication of our culture, illness, pain, suffering, sorrow, grief, misery, and ultimately death continue to be an ever-present reality of our human existence.

This brings us to the inseparable connection between the pervasive grief experienced by the human race and the bitter reality of sin. All the misery in our world, and all the grief and sorrow it produces, have their origin in sin. As brief as this noun may be, the magnitude and ramifications of sin are staggering and beyond our ability to grasp. The Apostle Paul expresses it concisely when he writes, “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). So it has been since the dawn of history, when Adam and Eve committed the first sin and blatantly disobeyed the revealed will of their loving Creator and heavenly Father. God had graciously forewarned them that transgression of His law would culminate in death. Ever since that wretched day, the lives of men (Enoch and Elijah being the only exceptions!) have ended in death. All the sorrow and grief of this life, and all the misery and pain that are encountered by all men at some point during their brief earthly journey, are but preliminary to the ultimate wage men receive for their sins: death.

Why did God, who created a perfect world and a sinless couple, purpose that the ultimate penalty for sin must be death — a penalty that encompasses all the sorrow and grief that precede and culminate in death? To answer that question, a number of important things need to be considered.

The word death means “separation.” When death occurs, that which is meant to be united will be separated. Physical death is a graphic affirmation of this, for at that solemn moment two entities are separated that were created by God to be united eternally: body and soul. However, physical death is not the only wage of sin. The most bitter aspect of our sinfulness is that we are separated from a God who created us to have an everlasting love relationship with Himself. Not only did God create man in His image, but He also entered into a covenant relationship with man — into a binding love relationship. God told our first parents, however, that if they were to be disloyal to that covenant, and thus by disobedience would divorce themselves from Him, they would reap the bitter consequences of that spiritual divorce: a three-fold death or separation.

Death is thus the exact opposite of the idea of the covenant. In the original covenant relationship, God and man were bound together with the bond of love. Sin brought the dissolution of that intimate union, resulting in the separation of God and man, of body and soul, and ultimately (without divine intervention) in the radical, irreversible, and eternal separation of God and man. Since death is the opposite of a covenantal union, God imposed upon man a punishment that truly fits the crime!

We all recognize that the foremost reason why sorrow and grief are so prevalent in our lives is the inescapable specter of death. Sooner or later, we must deal with the painful loss of parents, children, family members, and/or beloved friends — often after serious illness, and some­times suddenly. Considering that nearly two people die every second, our world is perpetually filled with sorrow and grief. The well-known expression that life is a “vale of tears” is thus an accurate summary of our text.

Why is God’s judgment upon sin so severe and pervasive? What is it about sin that renders it so ugly and obnoxious to a holy God, provoking His holy being to respond in wrath both in this life and the life to come? To answer that question, we must consider God’s character, a character most profoundly expressed in the fact that God the Father loves His eternal and only-begotten Son with an eternal and infinite love. That love relationship defines and motivates Him!

This explains why God the Father not only created the world by His Son, but also for His Son (Col. 1:16b). This is preeminently true for man whom He created in the image of His Son to live a life that would supremely honor His Son. To achieve that, God wrote upon man’s heart His law, consisting of two fundamental requirements: to love God with heart, soul, strength, and mind, and one’s neighbor as himself (Matt. 22:37-40). Specifically, this means that we were created to love God as He has revealed Himself in His Son (John 1:18), and that we must love our neighbor by virtue of having been created in the image of God’s Son. Thus the focal point of obe­dience to God’s law is His beloved Son! Consequently, the transgression of the law is nothing less than an act that supremely dishonors God’s Son — something that provokes the Father to infinite wrath.

Let us now make an important connection: Whenever we sin, we are dishonoring and transgressing the written Word of God, and when we dishonor the written Word of God, we dishonor the Living Word of God — the Son of God’s love. Thus, because the Father loves His Son, sin is so exceedingly ugly and despicable to Him, for it supremely dishonors Him who is the Holy One of Israel. That makes the gospel so extraordinary, for the Father, whose Son we dishonor when we sin, so loved a fallen world of covenant breakers that He gave that Son as a sacrifice for sin, that whosoever believes in the Son of His love will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). In the fullness of time, He became “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief ... (who) hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows,” for “it pleased the LORD (His Father!) to bruise him; he hath put him to grief” (Isa. 53:3-4, 10). As a perfect Substitute, He thereby accomplished a perfect redemption for sinners who are worthy that all their days be filled with sorrow and that their travail should be filled with grief.

How blessed are they who by faith have embraced this precious Christ! They will have to journey through this vale of tears and experience the consequences of sin with the significant difference that all their trials will be sanctified trials. Their journey will ultimately culminate in that day “when he shall appear, (and) we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2b). Then “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain” (Rev. 21:4).

How dreadful will that day be, however, for all who have died as they have lived — as unrepentant sinners! How fearful shall it then be to fall into the hands of the living God whose wrath will burn forever against all who have rejected His beloved Son in unbelief (John 3:36b)! The sorrows of this life will pale in comparison to the everlasting grief that awaits all who have refused to kiss the Son. Therefore, if you have not yet kissed God’s Son in faith (Ps. 2:12), fall at His feet while He still proffers peace and pardon, lest you should perish in the way and an eternity awaits you that will be filled with weeping and gnashing of teeth.

What future awaits you after a brief life marred by sorrow and grief?

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