There is one thing we all have in common ... we are growing old. Some of us are already old, and we're just growing older. What does it look like to grow old? It can be scary in many ways, and aging body that is more prone to illness; strength that is deteriorating; feelings of uselessness; loss of friends and loved ones through death; reality of our own death; loneliness; financial concerns; and the list goes on and on.
Some people talk about old age as the "golden years" but those living in them don't find much gold (it usually belongs to their doctor). It is said that elderly people are rich because they have: silver in their hair, gold in their teeth, stones in their kidneys, gas in their stomachs and lead in their feet. The human body was never designed to live forever, and we will all advance through the stages of old age as we proceed through toward the end of our lives.
So what does it look like to grow old with God? One area that provides room for continual growth in our senior years is the spiritual domain. The body may break down, but the spirit is still capable of growth, renewal, and even new birth in old age. What should I be doing now, however old I am, to prepare for old age? Hebrews 13:8 reminds us that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." God does not change, God is always the same! But our perception and understanding of God must change; we must be willing to always increase our knowledge of God.
To do so, we must be willing to develop godly habits. Psalm 71 gives us a little insight on this growing old business. Scholars have agreed that this psalm is the prayer of an aged believer. The psalmist is confident in his faith, strengthened by his long experience, rejoices in hope, turns to God in prayer and proclaims thanksgiving.
Within Psalm 71 we find three godly habits: the first is the habit of TRUST. The entire Psalm is an affirmation of the psalmist's trust in the Lord. Charles Spurgeon calls it "the utterance of struggling, but unstaggering faith." It is safe to say that the psalmist was struggling because of the difficult circumstances of life, but he was unstaggering in his faith because he knew the Lord and believed God would see him through. This kind of faith comes from his knowledge of God. The psalmist knew God, he had learned to trust God, and he knew God would see him through.
Are you developing a habit of trusting God in the difficult times of life? Or are you frequently filled with worry, doubt or fear? If you have trouble trusting, concentrate on getting to know God and review the things God has already done for you.
The second godly habit found in Psalm 71 is the habit of PRAISE. Praise is not always a natural habit. Some people just seem to grumble and complain naturally, but God wants us to be a people of praise! How can we learn to praise God when trials come? By learning to trust God! Just as trust comes from knowing God, praise comes from trusting God.
The third godly habit found in Psalm 71 is the habit of HOPE. We find hope for things: I hope my investment will earn a profit. I hope the price of gas goes down soon. But when we hope in God, a God that is unchanging, we know we will find God trustworthy and faithful. The psalmist was in good shape in his old age, because he had developed a deep knowledge of God and had developed the godly habits of trust, praise and hope.
Growing old with God should bring a level of maturity and refining gained by experience. We accept life. We absorb life's blows. We heal and we scar; but we all carry lessons that can be learned and passed along. A poster in our senior center boldly declared, "Growing old isn't for sissies!" As the years go by, we will all identify with that statement more and more.
Growing old has it's challenges. With age comes the realization of how physically close we might be to the Kingdom of God. In a very real sense we stand on the brink of eternity. The God who has made us also planned a wonderful future beyond the certainty of growing old and ending our days on earth. "It is written: no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). We can look forward to that time with anticipation, while learning to navigate the later years with grace and dignity.
Trinity Living Center, Chicora Medical Center