The Voyage of Life

Inspiration MinistriesBy Inspiration Ministries3 Minutes

“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” Mark 8:36 NASB

Thomas Cole primarily painted landscapes, overwhelmed by the beauty of his new American homeland after emigrating from England in 1818. But, sensitive to the spiritual aspect of life, he also developed paintings designed to convey Biblical truths.

We seek these aspirations in his four-part series, “The Voyage of Life” (now displayed in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC). This series traced a pilgrim’s journey along the “River of Life.”

In the first painting, “Childhood,” a boat emerges from a dark cave as a child reaches out to the world with wonder and amazement. A light shines symbolically, as an angel guides the boat. In the second painting, “Youth,” the child has grown to be a young man, now confidently assuming control of the boat. Oblivious to the turbulent water around him, he boldly strives to reach a castle (symbolizing the quest for fame and glory).

In the third painting, “Manhood,” the youth has become an adult, but in the process has lost control of the boat (and his life). The sea is turbulent, with dangers everywhere. The sky is menacing. Only with God’s help, Cole suggests, can man be saved.

Darkness still blankets the environment in the fourth painting, “Old Age.” But now glorious light bursts through the clouds. The man, now in his later years, realizes that his hope is to turn to God. The man, now seeing the guiding hand of an angel, reaches out toward the light.

Cole’s paintings remind us of an important Biblical theme—that life is short. Barely a breath, and then it is over. But we all have choices. Many spend their lives seeking kingdoms and power. Craving pleasure and short-term profit. Trying to chart their own course. The answer? To trust in God. To let Him guide our “ship.” To seek first His Kingdom.

Make sure that you focus on the Kingdom that lasts. On eternal riches.


Prayer: Father, help me to have Your perspective on my life. I commit my time, talent, and treasure to You. Help me to accomplish Your goals for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.