At 46 I am not considered old in the current culture, however, I am getting there quickly. Each year there are new and unique trials: more frequent visits to doctors, less patience with familiar situations and people and thoughts to the coming reality of death and being ready for it.
I just finished a book by J.L. Packer, “Finishing the Course With Joy”, a book on engaging with our reality of growing older.
Our culture does not prize the old, it prizes: youth, so called originality, the latest tool and tech, wealth, and freedom from all constraints. As you grow older you begin to question your value to a culture that does not value your experience, wisdom, stories, and availability. So to grow older with joy is the message of this short book from Packer.
Let me save you some time – if you are not a person of faith, you have no hope. You will attempt to relax your way into death, or squeeze the last bit of bitter fruit from a life of hopelessness. If there is not Christ, then there is only death. If you had a legacy it will be changed in the history books over time and your children will die the same as you and you’ll be forgotten with the last breath of your grandchild.
Only Christ offers hope to all, including the aging. Your are soul and body and they both require a redemption.
Your soul, “the built in principle of awareness, responsiveness, interaction, and relationships. Cognitive enquiry and thought; interrogation of persons, situations, and resources; memory of things past and the sense of identity that remembering generates: feeling emotions and forming plans; perceiving and performing creative work in the arts, and the grasping of reality of the goodness, beauty, and truth: creative relationships with other people – all these are activities of the soul,” writes Packer (Finishing Our Course With Joy, Packer, Crossway Publishing, 2014, Pg. 40-14)
If what makes us what we are is not eternal, then all is meaningless to quote Ecclesiastes.
If you know Christ then lets press on, if not, call me.
God is a god of mass, he created a physical world and gave us a body in which to occupy it. While your body will begin to fail you, there is good news in Christ, a new body to the faithful. “God likes matter, he made it,” wrote William Temple the Archbishop of York.
This hope can press us through our old age with joy. As Christians we must keep going; we must not retire from thinking, activity, and engagement until our body, mind or both fail us in total.
“The word retire is not in my Bible,” said evangelist Billy Graham.
We must continue to learn.
Lifelong learning should be just that – lifelong. We must continue to learn about our faith, others, history, science, and technology. We must continue to engage in the liberal arts as well as the Bible. “Congregations in every age must see themselves as learning communities,” says Packer. (Finishing Our Course With Joy, Packer, Crossway Publishing, 2014, Pg. 65)
We must continue to lead.
There is always someone who is need of your leadership within and outside your family. Commit to them with availability and encourage them to engage with good resources, practices, and people. “In close and affectionate relationships there is always an element of leadership.” (Finishing Our Course With Joy, Packer, Crossway Publishing, 2014, Pg. 67)
We must have zeal.
Others must feel our commitment to the faith, people and ideas we love through our words and life of action. “Nowhere does Scripture suggest that this divine renewing process is programmed to go on hold as we age.” (Finishing Our Course With Joy, Packer, Crossway Publishing, 2014, Pg. 73)
We must look forward.
“God is there and He is not silent,” said Frances Schaeffer, and if He is there then he deserves our affection and efforts. We must look to the moment we are not only spiritually, but physically in His presence. “The world changing impact made by Christians during the first hundred years reflected directly this joy and excitement with which they grasped this hope of glory.” (Finishing Our Course With Joy, Packer, Crossway Publishing, 2014, Pg. 84)
Press on my aging friends – there is yet much for us to do.