“They will still bear fruit in old age; they will be full of sap and very green….” (Psalm 92:14)
Can I tell you something odd?
Today, as I was surfing through the program containing all the articles in this website from over a dozen years of blogging, I came across an unfinished draft of one called “the last temptations of the aged.” I breezed right past it, in search of something else I was looking for.
A moment later, I was back. That was an intriguing title, I thought. Must have started that article a year or more back. Wonder what it says.
After reading it, I deleted the entire thing.
It was indeed written about two years back, and then left in the program and forgotten. But the strange part is that nothing about it is true in my life now.
Not a thing.
I had listed as tempations of the elderly things like not exercising as much, not eating as healthily as previously, reading more for indulgement rather than edification, wanting to sleep more, and such.
“Where was my head?” I wondered. “I’m 75 years old and I’m not reading shallow novels, I’m exercising, and I’m trying my dead-level best to stay healthy. I am not lying around resting all the time. I’m constantly at work serving the Lord. In some ways, these are the most productive years of my life.”
Wonder what was going on to inspire such a depressing list.
So, what, I now ask myself are the true “final” temptations of the elderly? I can come up with an answer to that—but no one should interpret this as any kind of confession.
I’m doing just fine, and that’s a fact. But I know a lot of seniors and therefore, my list of temptations which the older people deal with includes these….
1) The elderly often grow sentimental about the past and negative about the present.
The cartoon showed an old gent on his front porch telling someone, “Yep, in my 88 years, I’ve seen a lot of changes. And I been agin every one of them!”
That’s a caricature. Not all seniors are that way, thank the Lord. There are some pretty wonderful older people. I seize the promise of Psalm 92:14 and claim it. “They will still bear fruit in old age; they will be full of sap (youthful!) and very green….”
2) The elderly often remember wrong–recalling hurts and slights that were passing things from a friend or loved one and now exaggerating them in memory. They should have forgotten and forgiven and never looked back.
My dad was this way. In his 90s, he kept talking about something his mother did to him when he was 18. We would try to reason him out of it, but nothing worked. Only time took care of this.
3) The elderly often grow fearful about their future. And let’s be honest, not without justification. It’s simple logic that as people grow older they have more aches and pains, make more trips to the doctor, have higher medical bills, and become more and more dependent in the period before they exit this life. Furthermore, if their finances are precarious–in the stock market or in bonds–the ups and downs of the economy affect them personally and not just in theory.
4) Since the elderly are gradually losing longtime friends to death–death is a fact of life, so to speak–there is a temptation to make fewer friends. So, they get lonely. And they become a bigger burden to their children as a result.
5) The temptation is to become less and less social, to cut oneself off from the few remaining friends and make fewer and fewer new ones.
Marguerite Briscoe was a retired elementary school principal when we first met. I was 30 years old and the newest member of her church staff. I quickly came to bask in the light in her eyes and the joy in her smile. And so did everyone else, particularly the single young adults in our church. So, when they recruited her to be one of their department’s “sponsors,” she accepted although somewhat tentatively. “What would I have to do?” she asked. And the half-dozen young adults said to her, “You just have to be yourself!”
Even though she was in her late 70s, she insisted everyone call her Marguerite. She attended their Sunday School class and various functions, and would sometimes host Bible studies or informal gatherings of the group in her apartment. The “kids” did all the work and helped her pick up afterwards.
When Marguerite Briscoe went to heaven–perhaps in her early 90s–she left behind a world of friends and loved ones, people in whom she had invested her life after retirement.
She became my role model without ever knowing it.
The Christian senior has to keep believing God’s word. “The just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4) and “We walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). So, they must keep their eyes on the Lord.
The Christian senior has to take the long, long view. “This momentary light affliction is working for us an exceeding weight of glory far beyond all comprehension” (2 Corinthians 4:17). The troubles are temporary, and just on the other side is glory.
The Christian senior has to find creative ways to bear fruit for the Lord. Pray for that one, write a note to this one, give money to the other. Talk to advisors about blessing some special person or some great ministry in their will. And pray. Nothing is more needed in this fallen world than the faithful prayers of God’s people.
The Christian senior has to go out of his/her way to find laughter. Laughter is as much a tonic for the soul as vitamins are for the body. It “doeth good like a medicine,” said Solomon. He was right. In fact, laughter is better than medicine and a lot cheaper.
The Christian senior needs to be proactive before stepping outside the house to go anywhere. What should I wear? Which shoes would be comfortable and safe? Should I carry my cane? Yes, but more than these. How about: I must remember to smile; I will speak pleasantly to everyone. God, please use me to encourage the downhearted and give light to those struggling to find the way. And help me to restrain the desire to criticize. (People hate to be around complainers, and we oldsters seem to fall into that pattern too easily.)
I started to say it’s a never-ending struggle, but that’s not right. It has an end. This is a “momentary, light affliction,” after all.
Before long, we shall see the Lord. “We shall behold His face in righteousness, and I shall be satisfied with His likeness when I awaken” (Psalm 17:15).
It’s just a short phase we’re passing through, fellow seniors.
Let’s pray for one another and encourage each other. These days are short and eternity is long.
I can’t wait.