Most of us don’t think about aging until, well, we reach a certain age, but whatever your age, have you thought about how to age biblically?
Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #130 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.
Hi, I’m from the 20th Century. Who and what I am, for better or worse, was largely defined back then. That might sound funny, but it’s true. I was born in another century, and thus far I’ve spent most of my life in the 20th Century, which obviously means I am older, I’m aging.
In 1513, Juan Ponce de León searched for the fountain of youth and eternal life. Instead, he found Florida. A lot of jokes come to mind, like maybe Ponce de León found the fountain of you after all, or at least tens of thousands of retirees seem to think so when the head off to Florida each winter.
But hey, time marches on. Youth is irretrievable. Aging is inevitable, inexorable, and irresistible.
Age is an issue in the 2024 US Presidential election – President Joe Biden is age 81, and former president Donald Trump, the likely opponent. will be age 78 at the election in November.
Remember, age was an issue in the 1984 US Presidential election too. Ronald Reagan, who was 73 at the time, was running against Walter Mondale, age 56. Some people felt Reagan was too old. During one of the debates, Reagan nailed it when he was asked about the age issue. He famously said, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." The line solicited a huge laugh from the audience, including Democratic opponent Walter Mondale.
But there is one alternative to aging – death, as in “Nothing’s certain but death and taxes.” Scripture says, “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,” (Hebrews 9:27). Even the Old Testament patriarch Methuselah, who lived to be 969 years old, died.
Death is the “Great leveler.” It comes to great and small, the wicked and the good, all demographics.
One joke common among elderly folks is: “I’m glad to be here. Hey, I’m glad to be anywhere.”
But I’m not here to talk about death. I want to talk about aging, and not just aging, but how to age biblically.
If you are a Christian, as I am, I hope you not only want to “finish well,” as they say, but you want to live into your sunset years in a manner that honors God.
In American culture we sometimes say, “My, she’s aging gracefully.” Mostly what’s being said is that she is aging well physically. In other words, she looks pretty good. Nothing wrong with that, though some people wryly note that aging gracefully is more about gravity than grace.
Much about aging gracefully has to do with DNA and things beyond our control. But there’s also a lot within our control. For example, it’s possible to inflict attitudes and behaviors upon our bodies, minds, and souls that debilitate our physical, mental, and emotional conditions, that not only age us but age us rapidly and distressfully.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Every man over 40 is responsible for his own face,” meaning our choices, our lifestyle, show up in our countenance.
The Bible says this: “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit” (Proverbs 15:13). What’s on the inside shows up on the outside and etches tracks of its passing.
So here we’re talking not only about aging gracefully – usually the physical – but also aging graciously – which is about the spirit. Aging graciously is how the “real me” interacts with the world.
Some counselors talk about the “More So Syndrome.” This is the idea that what we’re like, that is, how we behave, what kind of personality we have, when we are middle aged or older – including our shortcomings, bad habits, poor attitudes, or sour outlook on life – is likely to be “more so” when we are older and elderly.
So, if I’m a grouchy person at 70, I very well could be an unpleasant, nasty, maybe surly person at 80 or 85 or 90. If I am a kind, compassionate, slow to anger, friendly, and godly person at 70, I am more likely to be more so – kinder and more pleasant – at 80 or 85 or 90.
Who we are inside often heightens or sharpens with age, and it comes out.
Jesus said, “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them…The things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person” Matt 15:11, 18-20.
Those who study or who work with elderly people say More So Syndrome is a common occurrence.
What’s that mean for us now? Well, this means we need to tune into our attitudes and behaviors. And not we ourselves but we need to submit our hearts and therefore our character and personality to the Lord, for “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Gal. 5:22-23.
But challenging circumstances, what the book of James calls trials and tribulations, always intervene. Life happens. Yet while we experience adversity in life, indeed “to be human is to experience adversity,” still, there is no biblical justification for what are called “Grouchy old women” or “Crotchety old men.” Have you known someone like this, an older person who is just not pleasant to be around? Do you want to me this person who is clearly not aging biblically, or do you want to be a person who honors God and therefore blesses those around them as you grow older?
“Good aging manifests itself a spirit which rises above external circumstances, praying for the grace not simply to endure what must be endured, but for the grace to move through adversity to a deepening of spirit and the will to reach out to others in need.”
As human beings made in the image of God, we are blessed with moral agency, meaning our character and our will are not determined, controlled, or necessarily even limited by our environment or our demography, that is, sex or race or ethnicity. Nor are we the hapless, hopeless victim of fate, destiny, karma, “May the Force be with you,” chance, luck, kismet, or any other conceived impersonal influences.
We are free moral agents, thank God. We are blessed to choose, we are blessed to be used of God, and we can be a blessing to others.
At my age now, in my early 70s, I understand our family verse better than when Sarah and I chose it at the birth of our first child, a “Bicentennial Baby,” in January 1976: “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” Psalm 126:3.
Aging believers know, perhaps better than others what the Psalmist meant when he said, “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” Psalm 23:6. Who better to proclaim God’s faithfulness than older people?
Aging biblically involves the following:
- Trust the sovereignty of God, i.e., facing frailty, disease, decline, death while evidencing faith, joy, grace, wisdom or perspective, peace.
- Understand God is not finished with us until he calls us home – God decides, not us, so we don’t quit. “Therefore we do not lose heart.Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Cor. 4:16
- Live with purpose, intentionality, learning; what does God want me to do now?
- Seek to finish well, recognizing that “The glory of a life well-livedis the glory of single days well-lived.”
Aging gracefully is OK, but aging biblically is better, for indeed this means we are aging godly, and if we are doing this, God will bless and work through us till he calls us home.
Well, we’ll see you again soon. This podcast is about Discerning What Is Best. If you find this thought-provoking and helpful, follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Download an episode for your friends. For more Christian commentary, check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s rexmrogers.com.
And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2024
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