Admit it, you have a love/hate relationship with late middle age, or the “senior years.” That hate part begins around age 50 when you get your first letter from the AARP. Why are they sending me this?, you may ask indignantly. The love part kicks in when your car insurance goes down because of your age. The kids are grown and gone, the house is paid off, and if retirement is your thing, then you may look forward to that. Still, you cope with aches and pains you didn’t have before, yet all of a sudden it seems as though the print in books or labels and newspapers got small and people mumble a lot more than they used to. And where once you took only an aspirin once in a while, now you’re having to count out your pills before you drink your morning cup of coffee.
There can be great joy in getting older, but also anxiety and, for some of us frustration and sometimes even a little bit of melancholy, as we stare into the mirror at the that old person looking back and we wonder where the years went. And for some, when they realize the years ahead are far fewer than the years behind, the gloom of depression hangs on and won’t let go.
Bruce Springstein, surely the luckiest entertainer in America, wrote a song about some friends who live in the past because they don’t like the way their lives turned out. To them, the “Glory Days” are long gone.
But Springstein isn’t the only one who feels that the best years are past. A lot of folks in their middle age think this way. Christians may also be tempted to feel this way, but we should think twice, and here’s why.
God remains ever faithful
If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsake nor their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely;their children will be blessed. (Psalms 37:23c-26 | NIV84)
David wrote this psalm, and of course that last verse is simply the Lord saying that He will keep the promise He made to Abraham and successive generations. But that small paragraph really packs a wallop, though. The NIV84 is correct in making things conditional: “If the Lord delights in a man’s ways,” then He will do something good for that man – he will “make his steps firm.” In other words, if God likes what He sees a man doing, God will “establish” – “make firm” – that man’s steps. This is a righteous man, not an evil man. God will give a righteous man what he needs to help him along. The righteous are not left up to their own devices.
Something else David learned in his old age was that though a righteous person be poor, they may still be blessed by God. And if they “stumble” and if they fall off the spiritual wagon, God will be there to put him back on. The psalmist has realized only what may be discovered when looking in the rear view mirror of life: God was always wanted faithful, He remains faithful now, and he knows that God will always be faithful. Charles Spurgeon wrote:
A changeable God would be a terror to the righteous; they would have no sure anchorage, and amid a changing world they would be driven to and fro in perpetual fear of shipwreck. Our heart leaps for joy as we bow before the One who has never broken His word or changed His purpose.
An odd thing that happens as we age, for most of us anyway, is that our hair turns gray. Some folks like to wash that gray out every few weeks, but the book of Proverbs tries to make us feel good about the gray:
Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life. (Proverbs 16:31 | NIV84)
Now, this is a proverb and it’s very general. We all know gray-headed people who are not at all righteous. What this particular proverb teaches is that generally speaking, throughout history a person who has lived long enough to have gray hair is proof of God’s blessings. Lifespans during Old Testament times was quite a bit shorter than today; a lot of people didn’t live long enough to have gray hair. God’s blessings will always be evident, but no more so than a long life.
Here’s an interesting contrast:
The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old. (Proverbs 20:29 | NIV84)
God blesses His people in different ways at every stage of life. Just because you’re older and don’t have the energy you had a few years ago, doesn’t mean the Lord is finished with you.
Just because you’re older and gray headed, doesn’t mean that you should retire from serving the Lord, either. Somebody who lived a long life was a fellow by the name of Caleb, and here’s how he felt about his old age:
I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions… (Joshua 14:7 | NIV84)
“Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” . Joshua 14:10-12 | NIV84)
Can you imagine? Eighty-five years old and still fighting – not forgetting God’s promises and still looking forward to victory! And Caleb was indeed victorious once again. The idea of “retirement” is a fairly recent phenomenon in America. Once upon a time, a generation or two ago, people didn’t retire; they kept working as long as they could. The notion that you could stop working while still in good health and travel or garden or whatever was unknown to our grandparents. Not that retirement is a bad thing, but the attitude that says, “I’ve worked long enough now I’m going to take it easy,” isn’t a Biblical one and it certainly doesn’t apply to serving the Lord. You’re never too old to work for God; there is always something you can do for the kingdom.
They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”. (Psalms 92:14c-15 | NIV84)
The overall theme of Psalm 92 is God’s faithfulness and enduring love. That’s a common theme throughout all of Scripture; the God who was faithful when you were young is the same God now that you are old(er) and He’s still just as faithful and loves you just as much. Neither of these two divine attributes dwindles with the years. Using the metaphor of trees, the psalmist makes it clear that age doesn’t diminish the believer’s ability to prosper and “bear fruit,” that is, live a life of righteousness that it is obvious to all that you are a believer. A big, leafy tree cannot be hidden and an older Christian shouldn’t hide out of sight, either.
A good reason to live a fruit-bearing life into old age is so that the younger generation may be inspired. Never underestimate the power of your good example. A.B. Simpson made the comment:
Begin to rejoice in the Lord, and your bones will flourish like an herb, and your cheeks will glow with the bloom of health and freshness. Worry, fear, distrust, care – all are poisonous! Joy is a balm and healing, and if you will but rejoice, God will give power.
He’s absolutely right! You may not be in perfect health; you may creak a little when you walk and bend over, but you should ever rejoice in the Lord! It’ll make you feel better and it will cause spiritual fruit to grow in your life.
Serve the Lord faithfully
In your so-called golden years, you could sell your house, buy a boat and just sit on it all day, never interacting with anybody, or you could make yourself useful to the Lord, like good old Simeon did:
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. (Luke 2:25-26 | NIV84)
Jesus was just a baby when His earthly parents brought Him to the Temple in Jerusalem to dedicate Him to the Lord, a custom of the day. An elderly, devout believer was there, too. Simeon, though old, wasn’t traveling the world and he wasn’t laying about his boat, or sitting on his porch in his rocking chair, but he was right where he should have been: the house of the Lord. God had told Simeon long ago that he would live long enough to see the Messiah, so we can understand why, holding God to His word, he hung around the Temple in expectation. Who knows how long old Simeon held onto this Word from the Lord? Yet here he was, waiting and looking and his patient faith was rewarded when he saw the baby Jesus.
But it wasn’t just an old man who was faithful. There was an old lady too, a prophetess named Anna. Like Simeon, she was faithful and never gave up on the Lord.
She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:37 – 38 | NIV84)
Just like Simeon, Anna was still waiting for the redemption (the salvation) of Jerusalem. But it wasn’t so much the event as it was the Word of God she clung to. For her, and indeed for all faithful believers, there is joy in expectantly waiting for God’s Word to be fulfilled.
There are so many challenges in growing into middle age and passing middle age. So many things change as we age; our circumstances, our bodies, some relationships, but serving the Lord and remaining faithful to Him should be a constant. Billy Graham wrote some words of wisdom concerning this that deserve to noted:
Old age may have its limitations and challenges, but in spite of them, our latter years can be some of the most rewarding and fulfilling of our lives.
He’s right, and sometimes it all boils down to your perspective. You can spend a lot of time commiserating about the state of the world today and pining for the glory days of your youth, or you leave the past behind and embrace what God wants you to be doing now. It’s certain that there is something He wants of you.