Thursday, November 3, 2011

Aging in Grace

Glenn and I near the cemetery by the Church of the Holy Rood
     Some days I hate to admit that I am growing older, but the evidence presents itself when I try to make a fast move only to find my back aching for days afterward.  In fact, the aging population is growing rapidly thanks to medicine and improvements in living conditions.  According to statistics, by the year 2030 there will be one in five Americans 65 or older.  What a jump in life expectancy!  Unfortunately, the golden years are not always filled with joy, and our society's attitude towards older citizens is less than positive.  There is so much disrespect shown to older people today than was the case when I was growing up.  We need to know what the Bible says on this subject and teach it to our children, grandchildren and those around us.  Likewise, we need to encourage those entering this time in life so they can see it from God's perspective.
     In Deuteronomy 5:33, we read:  "You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess."  God's blessings to His children extend into old age when they walk with Him.  He shows them His favor and goodness.  We can conclude that old age is actually a blessing from God for a life well lived.   In reality, old age is part of God's purpose for a normal life.  When we look at David and even Job, both of them died, according to God's Word, at a ripe old age (I Chronicles 29:26 and Job 42:17).  No one would say that David or Job had life easy.  However, their lives were marked by having a heart for God.  This should also be our goal as we age in grace.
Big Ben in London - A reminder that all time
is in God's hands
     Another blessing of growing older is that it often is a reflection of how well we treated our parents.  In the Ten Commandments the Lord gave this injunction with a blessing:  "Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you" (Exodus 20:12). Paul echoed this command in his letter to the Ephesians 6:1:  "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, because this is right.  Honor your father and mother - which is the first commandment with a promise - that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land."  My mother used to remind me how important it was to show respect and honor to my parents, and we often discussed this commandment with a promise.  I am grateful and thankful that I was able to minister to my mother's needs during her struggle with Alzheimer's Disease.  It was a privilege to help her not a burden.  I will not say it was easy.  However, I tried to assist her out of love and a sense of responsibility for her well being.  This is what family is all about!  Today, we see many families abandon their elders to nursing homes or other care facilities and never visit them or keep in touch.  The Bible also speaks to this:  "Now if anyone does not provide for his own relatives, and especially for his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (I Timothy 5:8).  As Christians, we need to care for those who can no longer care for themselves.  We can be a great witness both in our community and in our family by honoring those who are older.
     Other blessings that come with growing older include having greater wisdom from walking with the Lord as well as life experience and the ability to counsel younger men and women.  Churches miss so many opportunities when they overlook the wise guidance of senior members.  Certainly, older members cannot do as much physically as they used to but they can contribute in many other ways especially in the area of giving sound advice in matters of spiritual importance.  Learning at the feet of a grandfather or grandmother in the faith can help younger members to grow and mature.  If we are an older member of a church, we also have to make ourselves available to serve.  There is no such thing as retirement in the kingdom of God.  We miss blessings when we fail to be involved!
     While there are blessings to growing older, there are also difficulties.  We may have a lower income, poor health, or other heartaches as we grow older, but even with these challenges we can lean on the Bible to find solace at hard times.  One of my favorite verses is found in Isaiah 46:3-4:  "Listen to Me, house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been sustained from the womb, carried along since birth.  I will be the same until [your] old age, and I will bear [you] up when you turn gray.  I have made [you], and I will carry [you]; I will bear and save [you]."  Our heavenly Father abides with us and never leaves us.  His presence is even sweeter as we age for we are drawing near the time when we shall see Him face to face.
Window in the Church of the Holy Ghost
Heidelberg, Germany
     In addition, God helps us through suffering and sickness.  I Peter 4:9 reads:  "So those who suffer according to God's will should, in doing good, entrust themselves to a faithful Creator."  Our Lord has over come this world, and He has over come death.  In this, we have victory and assurance.  Furthermore, we need to remember that nothing will ever separate us from God (Romans 8:38-39).  There will come a day when death will end, there will be no more tears or sorrow and God will take away our pain (Rev. 21:3-4).  This gives us a great hope as we grow older.
     For those of my readers who are much younger and have not approached the older years, the Bible has some words of wisdom for you regarding your elders whether family or friends. It must be remembered that older people deserve kindness and respect according to the Word of God.  I Timothy 5:1-2 reads:  "Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and with all propriety..."  Then, in Leviticus 19:32, we read:  "you are to rise in the presence of the elderly and honor the old...I am the Lord."  Finally, we read in Proverbs 23:22:  "Listen to your father who gave you life, and don't despise your mother when she is old."  These are the guidelines for interacting with the older generation.  Too often, I do not witness this type of relationship between younger and older members of our society.  There is so much to learn from those who have traveled farther down the road than we have.  Therefore, be wise and if you want a long life, respect your elders and especially your own parents.
      Each one of us will grow old one day.  Our sight will dim, our hearing will not be as sharp and we will have aches and pains in places we didn't know existed.  However, the blessings of a long life lived in the power and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ can be rich and full.  There is always some means of serving others and the Lord even when we have limitations due to illness.  We can always pray, we can call others, we can write letters of encouragement and we can teach our family how to live in Christ until we draw our last breath.  May we, who are growing older, age in and with grace that our lives will reflect God's glory until He takes us home with Him.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts and comments.  These words of encouragement are a blessing to others who read.  Please feel free to leave your thoughts.


Gospel One To One said...

A good reminder.

We need the grace as you mention, hopefully we can impart some wisdom to the younger ones around us.

Doesn't scripture say. Grey hair is a crown of splendour. Or something like it. We my crown is nearly white!



Pam said...

So true, Barbara. I thank God for the many godly senior Christians God has brought into my life. They have given me wonderful examples of living for Jesus.