I was recently challenged by watching a short video clip of a man speaking very persuasively about believers and their aging. He lamented the fact that, in his experience, he met very few elderly people whose lives made sense to him biblically. Because he was speaking with such a respectful, gentle tone of voice, my interest in what he was saying was heightened.
He seemed not to be brash or simplistic in his observations—one of which involved the fact that people over the age of 65 allegedly watch as much as 7.5 hours of television a day! In the process of raising such issues, he was merely identifying a strange disconnect, a contradiction by his reckoning, that believers who were far closer to death than he is (statistically speaking), seem to be less focused on dying and meeting the Saviour they have professed to serve. Even though he mentioned that he was 44 years old (I took note that his age was six years less than mine!), I didn’t sense at all that he was going through a midlife crisis, where some people lose perspective and seem to panic about time slipping away from them. This man was not being cynical or grumpy about evaporating youthfulness. He was genuinely, and credibly, living with a keen sense that life here on earth is very transitory and temporary. He was actively anticipating and preparing for the day that he would meet God, and he sensed that so few people around him were doing likewise.
He felt strange. All around him, he observed older people either actively amassing stuff (saving) that they knew they would have to leave behind when they departed this life, or carelessly wasting their remaining opportunities for Christian usefulness. Somehow (and as he said it I felt a stab of conscience attesting to the truth of what he was saying in my own life), he observed people increasingly holding onto their possessions rather than actively and strategically shedding them for the benefit of others.
The words of Francis Chan, and his desire to risk it all for Christ, caring for the poor, meeting the needs of others, letting go of possessions and living by faith, challenged me deeply. I’m thankful for that!
No doubt, anyone older than 40 begins to wonder how many more years God has assigned to them on this earth. I’m thankful for every encouragement that God sends my way regarding making the best use of my time.
Sadly, I find—and I’m sure you do too—that there is a strange entropy towards decline and degeneration. When my soul is challenged by some insight, the positive effects don’t last all that long. I’m soon back to my natural drive for personal pleasure and self-preservation. Self-denial and sacrifice are shortlived urges!
Of course, selfishness is certainly not something unique to the aging process. From day one, it seems, we are all bent on looking after number one. In my case, even three decades into the sanctification process have not yet killed off these urges of more for me.
Perhaps because of my lamentable personal experience, I periodically like to pray the following prayer.1
“Lord, thou knowest that I know myself to be growing older and will someday be old.
Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from the craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs.
Make me thoughtful, but not moody; helpful, but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but thou knowest Lord that I want a few friends at the end.
Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.
Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by.
I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others’ pains, but help me to endure them with patience and compassion.
I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessened cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memory of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.
Keep me sweet Lord, although many people who think they are pious saints are so difficult to live with! A sour old person is surely one of the crowning works of the devil!
Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And, please give me, Lord, the grace to tell them so.”
Now, if you are moved by the need to use your remaining years in productive and sacrificial service for the Lord Jesus Christ and His kingdom, how would you express that desire in an additional paragraph to the prayer above? Christian, when you consider 2 Corinthians 5:15—“that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who died for their sake and was raised”—what do you desire for your autumn years?