What I Tell Seniors

Mary Hazel was a longtime member of one of my churches and a retired school-teacher. As her pastor, I was always glad she was retired because she was easily the most negative person I ever met and it gave me a tiny bit of comfort to know she was no longer afflicting her pessimism upon the next generation.

In the hospital or nursing home, her food was terrible. Mary Hazel’s daughter was mean to her and her nurses were rude and uncaring. She was in pain all the time and the doctors didn’t have a clue how to help her. Her friends would not come to see her. Nothing was right in her life.

On and on it went.

One day, I decided to bite the bullet and try something with Mary Hazel. I pulled the chair up to her hospital bed and said, “I want to say something. I’ve been your pastor for eight years and you know I truly care for you.”

I had her undivided attention, although her guard was up as though she was expecting the worst news possible. I said, “Mary Hazel, there is a reason no one comes to see you. You are one of the most negative people I have ever met. Nothing pleases you. You complain all the time. People don’t like to be around complainers.”

There. I said it, then sat back waiting for the explosion.

All she said was, “Doctor McKeever!!”

I thought of giving her that wonderful line from Proverbs 27:6, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” But I didn’t.

Mary Hazel did not want to hear anything further I had to say. And in case you’re wondering, she went right on with her critical spirit and negative words.

Mary Hazel is in Heaven now, and knows all the reasons she had for giving thanks and rejoicing in the Lord during her earthly days. But she can help us to get it right.

Here’s how.

Inside each of us, there is a Mary Hazel calling attention to all the reasons why we should be feeling bad. The economy is in terrible shape. The war in the Middle East shows no sign of ending. I’m getting older; I’ll never be as good looking as I once was; as I age, my body will grow weaker and sicklier. The presidential race is bitter and I don’t prefer either candidate. My church is having trouble; I don’t know where that pastor is leading us; my next door neighbors make too much noise. I’m not sure about my grandchildren. They’ve taken prayer out of the schools and now they’re trying to take Him off our currency.

You get the idea. (Note to my pastor and grandchildren and neighbors: I’m not talking about you. You’re wonderful. I’m just trying to make a point here.)

If you’re looking for reasons to complain, you can always find them. As Rosanne Rosannadanna used to say, “It’s always something.”


There are plenty of reasons to give thanks and rejoice. The sun came up this morning. The stock market did well yesterday. My pastor preached a great sermon Sunday. I have no aches or pains. My wife hugged me. My children love me, my grandchildren adore me. My bills are all paid. I can see flowers and hear conversations and taste my food and walk in the sunshine. And most of all, I’m saved. When I die, I’m going to Heaven.

Now, that’s the best reason of all to rejoice, being saved.

Jesus told His disciples, “Do not rejoice because the devils are subject to you. Rejoice because your names are written in Heaven.” (Luke 10:20)

If success is what we count on to give us a positive attitude and fill our hearts with joy, we’ll have it sometimes and sometimes we won’t. But if our joy is rooted in our salvation, we will never lose it. We can always rejoice. We’ll always be hopeful and positive.

Want to see how that works?

“After (Paul and Silas) had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison…(and) their feet (fastened) in stocks. About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” (Acts 16:23-25)

You know the rest of that story, how God sent an earthquake that blew the doors off their hinges and frightened the jailer to the point that he ran in before the two disciples and asked, “What must I do to be saved?” Before the night was out, the jailer’s entire family was born into the Kingdom and baptized.

Does anyone think that would have happened had Paul and Silas sat in the jail that night licking their wounds, crying from the pain, and griping about the mistreatment they had received? It was their rejoicing in the midst of trouble that caught the attention of the Philippian prison guard and made him aware that there was something special about these men.

It’s all a choice. We are surrounded by negatives and positives every day, every one of us. We get to choose whether to complain over the troubles or rejoice in the blessings.

But we can’t do both. These are polar opposites and one cancels the effects of the other.

It’s a matter of faith, isn’t it.

Our longtime readers will remember the account of church members from New Bern, North Carolina, who were ministering at a leprosarium in the little Caribbean country of Tobago. As they visited among the patients, the head of the institution invited the church group to lead a worship service in the dining hall.

During the hymn service, Pastor Jack (sure wish I knew his last name) noticed there was one resident of the leper colony sitting in the back with her face turned to the back wall. That was strange, he thought.

“We have time for one more hymn,” Jack announced. “Does anyone here have a favorite you’d like us to sing?”

Now, for the first time, that little woman turned toward the front. Pastor Jack found himself staring at the most hideous face he had ever seen. Leprosy had eaten away her nose and lips. As she raised her hand to get his attention, Jack noticed there was no hand there, just a bony nub where a hand used to be.

The woman muttered, “Can we sing

4 thoughts on “What I Tell Seniors

  1. God inhabits The Praise of His people.

    When Israel started praising The Lord, God set Ambushments against their enemies.

    We must praise our way to Victory.

    Praise brings God on the Scene, to act in our behalf.

  2. It may have been you that said in an earlier blog in a tongue in cheek way, that they knew a lady who did not want to go to heaven because there would not be anything there to complain about.

    Everything we have and are is the Lord’s. If we are wealthy, it is because God gave us the health and the intelligence to excel. As in I Corinthians 1:29-31. When we complain, we are complaining that the Lord did not give us this or that favor when we should be “Counting our many blessings”.

    I grew up poor in southern Illinois and remember as a young boy complaining about not having “things” that other boys had. I remember my dad saying that “I complained once about not having any shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” I didn’t get it at the time. But I found out later that my dad grew up without his parents and had even less material “things” than I did.

    The one “thing” that we need to grab onto is the Lord. All these other “things” will pass away, He won’t.

    Keep it coming Doctor Joe, you bless me and I thank God for you!

    Dr J

  3. This blog reminds me of a story told by Father John Powell, a Jesuit scholar, writer, and exceedingly wonderful man who taught me a lot of things. His story:

    “One evening at bedtime I visited the infirmary at the monastary where I live. A young priest was getting the patients settled for the night, so I stood aside and watched and listened.

    One old, bedridden priest was complaining bitterly about everything: his dinner had not been good, the sheets had wrinkles, he hated the medicine he had to take before going to sleep. The young priest ministered to him with kind words (which were not returned or appreciated), wished him a night of good rest, and went on to the bedside of another old, bedridden priest. This one smiled, thanked the young priest for his excellent dinner, the smoothness and comfort of the bed, and the fact that he was cared for so tenderly.”

    Father John then said, “I talked witht he young priest a few minutes and then went to my room. I prayed earnestly asking God to please, in my old age, make me like the grateful priest and not like the complaining one. God said to me, ‘John, they didn’t get like that when they were old. You just see it more in old people. Our old age is like the rest of our lives — filled with gratitude and goodness or bitterness and despair. Work in your own life toward gratitude, and teach other young people to be grateful, and they will have beautiful lives as seniors.'”

    I’ve been working diligently toward gratitude ever since I heard his story.

  4. JOe, I’m a big supporter of acting positive and saying encouraging words. But often it doesn’t work with some people. You can’t tell a depressed person to ‘Cheer up’. They are not capable of doing that. Chances are they suffer some level of depression (bipolar) which alters their day to day moods and makes them unpleasant people. And they don’t even know it. Many drinkers are severely depressed. People such as Mary Hazel most likely need medicine and professional counseling. Singling them out as people who are always “down in the dumps” is an unfair label for a sick person….which they are.

    A very large percentage of the population fall into this category and you can’t help them with Bible scripture, etc. They need medical treatment and since you can’t ‘see’ the injury…it often goes untreated.

    H.A. Thompson, Charlotte, NC

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