Bad News Birthdays?
by Elisabeth Elliot
Aging seems like an impossible subject to discuss because nobody is aging. “Who is aging?” I hear people say. “I’m a “Keenager,” or “You’re only as old as you feel.” And it’s always somebody else who is old. But of course, if we’re honest and sensible and realistic—which I try to be—we have to recognize that we are all aging and we are all aging at exactly the same rate.
Interestingly enough, when I was washing dishes the other morning, I heard on the news that there some new data being turned about the different rates at which people age. Obviously, all of us are a year older this year than we were last year, but some people show the signs of aging more quickly than others. I was listening with both ears at that point, because I thought. Goody. Here is some material that maybe I can add to my radio talk. But it was simply a matter of genetics and I thought, Oh well, there’s nothing that you and I can do about that.
If it was a matter of how we can live now in order to do better at aging, in order to make our old age fruitful—then I wanted to hear that part. But we can’t fend it off. We’re constantly reminded of it by the cosmetic industry, the vitamin industry, things like that.
A friend of mine in his late 70s showed me a birthday card he recently received. It said something like this: “Aging is all in your head. The baldness, the bifocals, the loss of memory, the bridge in your mouth, the loss of memory, the hearing aid, the loss of memory, and PS.: Did I mention the loss of memory?”
What about this business of being only as old as you feel? What about the “we’re not getting older, we’re getting better” philosophy? Well, I would hope that as we’re getting older, we’re getting better, because we’ve had more experience, more opportunities to learn lessons that some of us should have learned a long time ago.
But what I’m referring to here are all the devices for the denial of a plain fact. That fact is the fact of death. I think the devises for fending off the idea of old age are a disguise for devices for fending off the fact that we cannot face—which is death. We want to be content in our worldliness, and the fact of death makes it impossible. We become less and less content as we realize how very tenuous and passing the world is
First John 2:17 says, “The world and all its passionate desires will one day disappear. But the man who is following God’s will is part of the permanent and cannot die” (Phillips). Now I want to be part of the permanent, and the will of God makes me part of the permanent when I willingly and voluntarily put myself in harmony with it.
The act of aging makes the thought of death intolerable because, as we age, we become more and more keenly conscious of the fact that death is approaching us. It is not always somebody else who is old. It is I, for one.
There are many things that happen in the world that force the remembrance of death—earthquakes, volcanoes, political massacres, floods, hurricanes, famines—just to mention a few that have been in recent news. Can we be content in our worldliness in the face of things like that? Are things any different for Christians than they are for the unbelievers? Christians suffer famines, floods, hurricanes, volcanoes and all the rest of it. John Greenleaf Whittier wrote these lines: “Not mindless of the growing years of care and loss and pain / My eyes are wet with thankful tears for blessings that remain.”
I am reminded of the words in Proverbs: “The path of the just is as a shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (V:18, KJV). I usually give that verse to people when I send them a birthday card. It’s good news if we believe this—that the path of the just shines more and more.
What is your attitude toward growing older? Is it spiritual poise? When I think of the aging saints that I have known, and I’ve had the privilege of knowing a good many of them, spiritual poise would characterize every one. They have demonstrated a peaceful readiness to be silent, to wait, to go and to do the next thing, to be shelved if that becomes necessary. But they are never unnecessary to God. Some of you may feel that you are not nearly as necessary to others as you once were, but you are never unnecessary to God.
I think of the author of that very familiar Gospel hymn “Blessed Assurance.” When Fanny Crosby was just a baby, she was blinded by the doctor’s or nurse’s mistake. When she was nine years old she wrote, “O what a happy soul am I! / Although I cannot see, / I am resolved that in this world / Contented I will be. / How many blessings I enjoy / That other people don’t! / I cannot, and I won’t.” She lived to be more than 90 years old. And she wrote 8000 Hymns.
Old age is a part of the will of God, and in Romans 14:7,8 we read that at every turn, life links us to the Lord. And when we die, we come face-to-face with Him. In life or death, we are in the hands of the Lord.
Confident Living Magazine
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