The richness of growing old

Jonathan McNair
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Last week, I spent an afternoon with a gentleman in our local congregation who had just returned home after three days in the hospital.  He's home now, and doing better. At 106 years of age, he has maintained a tenacious hold on life. 

The fact that he has been alive for the better part of half of our nation's official existence is hard to fathom. He has had a full life. Listening to him talk about his life is often surprising and fascinating. As we were leaving his apartment, I was reminded of how easy it is to underestimate the depth of life-experiences of our elderly generation.

The biblical perspective regarding the treatment of the older members of our families and of our society is clear; a special kind of respect should be given to them. In Leviticus 19:32, we read, "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the Lord" (KJV).

Yet our world has moved in the opposite direction. Thomas R. Cole, in "The Journey of Life. A Cultural History of Ageing in America," has noted, "improved medical and economic conditions for older people have been accompanied by cultural disenfranchisement – a loss of meaning and vital social roles." All too often, the 21st century notion of "old-age" equals irrelevant, "out-of-touch," and unhealthy. And "old age" has taken on the stigma of a "sickness" – a problem to be solved by medicine, so that we can feel young again.

The Bible provides a different model.

In the Bible, we read of old age bringing a more balanced, broader view of life. In Psalm 37:25, the Psalmist writes, "I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread." These are big-picture, long-view words. They are words that can only be uttered by someone who has seen God's hand over time.

The richness of growing old © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

Psalm 37 gives the perspective that comes as our bodies naturally decline and grow frail, forcing us to be less self-reliant, and more dependent on others – and God. "Old age" is not a sickness. It is not a "handicap." It is a stage of life that brings its own challenges. But it also is a stage of life that God intends for each of us to go through – to help us deepen our relationship with God, and to provide guidance for others who are still in the early stages of life.

Psalm 92:12-14 states. "The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing."

God, who inspired these wonderful words to be written, fully expects us to honor the "hoary" headed ones, those who have gone before us providing through their hard life's work – and often with their blood, sweat and tears – many of the freedoms and comforts we enjoy today. He sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, to show us how that is possible. Send for our free booklet, What is A True Christian? You can also read it online by clicking on the booklets tab.