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Encouragement for the Aging
All the passages below are taken from Charles R Swindoll’s book “Job” published in 2004.
Not enough is said in our era about those who are aging. They often represent an overlooked body of people, even though there are now more in this particular category than ever before in the history of humanity. So we linger here not only to have a little fun with it, but to draw some encouraging lessons from it. This is a man who has seen a lot of life.
It was said of Abraham,
Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people.
Probably a reference to joining his people in the afterlife. We would say, in heaven. It was said of David, "Then he died in a ripe old age, full of days, riches and honor" (2 Chronicles 29:28).
Job is not dying a struggling, cranky, broken old codger whom no one enjoyed being around. This man is seeing his children, his grandchildren, his great-grandchildren. He is reliving the joys of his renewed life as he stays involved with them, passing along many of the things that he has learned.
The patriarchal formula "old and full of years," is expressive of a completely fulfilled life. What an enviable way to reach the end! He didn't "live happily ever after," since that's not possible. But what pleasures were his to enjoy! This old world is full of depravity. We cannot eradicate or escape a sin-cursed nature. We must deal with a hostile nature in others (and ourselves!) that is less than desirable. But there can still be satisfaction. There can be fulfillment in old age. Furthermore, there can be continuing purpose and deep contentment in later years.
As I completed preaching a message on this section of Scripture back in 2002, an older lady came to me and said, through tears, "I can't remember when a sermon has meant more to me." She added, "Sometimes it feels like folks our age are just about forgotten."
That memory prompts me to pass along some encouraging advice to you who have older parents still living and older family members still around: Remember them. Take care of them. Love them. If they're away, write to them. Call them. Keep up a dialogue through e-mails. Continue to nurture that relationship.
Age is not kind to the human body or to the cultivation of relationships. Let's learn from job's later years the value of cross-generational involvements. Admittedly, no one else can make an individual be fulfilled and feel satisfied, but we can certainly help the journey be a little more enjoyable.
And now---a little advice to you who are feeling overlooked and forgotten. There's a Jewish proverb that says, "For the ignorant, old age is as winter; for the learned, it is a harvest." As age stacks up, you will find that because you have kept yourself alert and alive, you will continue to see life through new eyes. Step up! Stay engaged in life! Don't succumb to feelings of self pity! "As soon as you feel too old to do a thing, go out and do it. As soon as you feel critical, say something kind in a kindly way. As soon as you feel neglected, send a cheery note to a friend."1
As the years begin to accumulate we find ourselves saying, "Stop worrying. It's okay. Don't get worked up over that!" I say that on occasion to one of our now-adult kids who is in a dither over one of their children who go half-crazy at times. I say, "It's okay; it's just a phase. (It's been going on for about four years, but it's a phase.) Don't sweat it. It's okay." One of my roles, I now realize, is being an encouragement to our kids and grandkids.
Henry Thoreau once wrote, "None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm." Isn't it wonderful to be around older people who are still contagiously enthusiastic? Isn't it great to see them have goals and dreams and tangible pursuits that have them excited from the time they awaken until bedtime? Folks like that are contagious.
General Douglas MacArthur wrote this great statement on his seventy-fifth birthday:
In the central place of every heart there is a recording chamber; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, and courage, so long are you young. When the wires are all down and your heart is covered with the snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then and then only are you grown old.2
My continuing close relationship with Dallas Theological Seminary is wonderfully satisfying. I'm not referring only to being around young students. You have no idea unless you're where I am as often as I am, the pleasure that I get from being with some of the same men who were among my mentors. These are who took their time to teach me when I was younger. What a great group of aging men! They're still walking with God. It's wonderful to see seventy-five, eighty, a few ninety-year-olds still loving Jesus. Still writing great works. Still reading. Still challenging me to stay strong. (I love it when they call me Sonny.) A couple of years ago, Dr. Walvoord and I were talking. He said, "Young man, back when I was your age. .." I smiled and thought, "What a great compliment!"
Someone said, "Remember older people are worth a lot more than younger folks. They have silver in their hair, gold in their teeth, stones in their kidneys, lead in their feet, and natural gas in their gut."3 We're worth a lot!
TIPS FOR STAYING YOUNG
I'd like to offer several tips on how to stay young. These are originals. Nobody gave them to me. I've sort of discovered them as life has unfolded over the past ten or fifteen years. I don't care what your age is. You'll be here someday. And when you are, you'll need to review these. You want to stay young? Remember five things.
Number one: Your mind isn't old, so keep developing it. Watch less television and read more. Spend time with people who talk about events and ideas rather than sitting around a shop talking about people and how sorry this young generation has become. Nobody wants to be around a crotchety old person who sees only the clouds and talks only about bad weather.
One comedian has said his daddy is so ready to die he won't even buy green bananas. That's a dreadful way to live. Dare the aging process, buy a whole bunch of green bananas. And while you're at it, get out there and plant a few small oak trees.
Number two: Your humor isn't over, keep enjoying it. I love being around older people who still see the sunny side of life. They see funny things happening. They can tell a great story. They enjoy a loud belly laugh. You look fabulous when you laugh. And it takes years off of you. Helps remove some of the lines on your face. Speaking of that, glance into a mirror. Maybe you would do well to cultivate a better sense of humor. Fred Allen used to say if you don't laugh out loud enough, it will go down and spread your hips.
Number three: Your strength isn't gone, keep using it. Don't let yourself get out of shape. Stay active. Eat right. Watch your weight. Guard against becoming isolated and immobile. And while I'm at it, quit addressing every ache and pain. Quit talking about how weak you’re and how others will have to do this for you. Jump in there. You keep doing it.
A physician friend of mine for so many years, made the mistake of telling an eighty-four-year-old woman who had just finished running her five miles that morning, "Listen, you need to take it easy. You don't have to run five miles." She had come in for her annual checkup. Following her regular workout a week-and-a-half later, she died. He said to me at her memorial service, "I'll never again tell a patient to take it easy."
Step up! Take the stairway. Don't always take the elevator. Exercise. Stay limber. Walk out into life and travel. Take some risks. Accept the challenges that opportunity throws at you. Say yes as often as you can. You'll become increasingly more in demand. Your strength isn't gone, unless you are telling it to leave.
Here's a fourth: Your opportunities haven't vanished, so keep pursuing them. There are people all around you who could use an encouraging word, an affirming note, a phone call that says, "I love you and believe in you and I'm praying for you." So go there. Opportunities to help others have not vanished. Don't allow yourself to get so fearful that all your drapes stay closed and all three of the locks on your doors stay locked. If you're not willing to risk, you'll begin to live in the terror of someone's taking advantage of you. What a dreadful existence! Without removing any of the essential needs for safety, don't live your life suspicious of others, thinking only of the dangers. If you do, you'll never leave your neighborhood. Opportunities haven't vanished, keep pursuing them with vigor.
Fifth is obvious: Your God is not dead, keep serving and seeking Him. The living God is ageless. The Lord Jesus Christ is timeless and ever relevant. Continue to enjoy some time alone with your Lord. It's important!
Job pulled through all of this and lived on---another 140 years. And I read nothing of his being set aside. Ten kids will do that to you, if nothing else. That'll keep you hoppin'.
I appreciate this prayer, which I have repeated many times:
Lord, thou knowest better than I know myself, that I am growing older, and will someday be old.
Keep me from getting talkative, and particularly from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.
Release me from the craving to try and straighten out everybody's affairs.
Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details---give me wings to get to the point.
I ask for grace enough to listen to the tales of others' pains. They are increasing, and my love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by.
I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.
Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.
Keep me reasonably sweet. I do not want to be a saint---some of them are so hard to live with---but a sour old woman (or man) is one of the crowning works of the devil.
Make me thoughtful, but not moody; helpful, but not bossy.
With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it; but
Thou knowest, Lord, I want a few friends at the end.
Give me the ability to see good things' in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And give me, Lord, the grace to tell them so.4
You have lived long enough to know that there is no one more trustworthy than the Lord Himself. Continue cultivating a meaningful relationship with Him. Seek Him diligently and often. Stay active in serving Him. This is one of the best reasons for staying involved at your local church. What avenues of service there are for those who are available, whose attitudes are positive, and whose minds stay active and alert.
I wish for you a full life, like Job's. Marked not by living happily ever after (an impossibility), but truly satisfied, fulfilled, challenged, useful, godly, balanced, and joyful.
Yes, for sure, joyful. And don't forget---reasonably sweet. [315-320]
1. Oliver Wheeler quoted by Glen Wheeler, 1010 Illustrations, Poems and Quotes (Cincinnati, OH: Standard Publishing, 1967), 14.
2. Douglas MacArthur, on his 75th Birthday, quoted by Glen Wheeler, 1010 Illustrations, Poems and Quotes (Cincinnati, OH: Standard Publishing, 1967), 15.
3. Charles R. Swindoll, Tale of the Tardy Oxcart (Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 1998), 28
4. “17th Century Nun’s Prayer.” Source Unknown
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