The Blessings of Old Age
R. V. Court, Bristol, England
Some, possibly many, of the readers of this magazine will be in the upper age-group, and this message is for you. Some of you will find it difficult to bring the matter of advancing age within the scope of the promise in Rom.8. 28, that God will make 'all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose'. And some wilt undoubtedly question the accuracy of the title to this article, 'The Blessings of Old Age'. We tend to think more of the problems.
At whatever stage in life you begin to use the term 'old age' (and it will vary from person to person) it will unquestionably have a link in the mind with things we once did, but cannot do now: with physical ailments such as heart trouble, rheumatic disorders, various aches and pains, difficulties in hearing and seeing, a failing memory, and resentments at these limitations. This is especially so if the earlier life has been an active one, either in or out of the Lord's service. There is the natural tendency to think it is all over, and to become despondent. With some there will be an added sense of increasing loneliness.
Facing the problem we need to ask the question-has God changed? When we became old did His promise cease to have effect? Yesterday it was effective, why not today? We still move only a day at a time, as it has always been, and it still remains true 'as thy days, so shall thy strength be', Deut. 33. 25.
Also, as true today as ever it has been is the promise 'I will guide thee with mine eye', Ps. 32. 8. Yes, even in the elderly persons residential home!
There arc privileges associated with old age which could not be enjoyed to the full in earlier days. There are those who speak of the extended periods of prayer they are able to enjoy and who can tell of the blessing to many another that has come because of this? Some have found more time for the enjoyment of the word of God, which has become a new book to them. Some, physically able, have engaged in profitable visiting and tract work. Some use the experience of the Lord gained through life to encourage and help others younger than themselves.
Regrettably there is sometimes a failure on the part of younger believers to recognise the special needs of those who once bore 'the burden and heat of the day', Matt. 20. 12, but cannot do so now, and the danger is that the aged begin to feel unwanted or, possibly it would be better to say, not needed.
Where are the blessings then? Cod has not forgotten those in advancing years. Through the prophet Isaiah, 46. 4, He spake to Israel, 'even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: 1 have made, and I will bear: even I will carry, and will deliver you'. This is a clear promise of Cod's close interest right to the end of life's journey. God went out of His way to comfort those getting on in years, and it should be noted that verse 9 of this chapter emphasises the unchanging character of God.
The Psalmist David, speaking as an old man, Psa. 37. 25, declared '1 have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken'. Has God changed? If lie has not we have the assurance that not one of His aged children will ever be forsaken. But Psalm 92. 14 brings a surprising encouragement to those who may feel their usefulness is finished, 'They shall still bring forth fruit in old age'. The fruit may not be as plentiful as in the past, but it will be the result of the work of the Divine Husbandman who tenderly cares for His child and the fruit will be for His glory, and for the enjoyment of others.
One thing about old age which should not be forgotten-every day brings us nearer to the glory which is yet to be revealed. There have been aged saints who seem to reflect already some of the coming glory, to them 'heaven' :.s not just a word, but a continuing experience. 'The prospect opening to the Christian's view is grander as the days go by'.
Some years ago a lovely poem, written by Ransome Cooper, appeared in the Echoes of Service magazine, and the editors of that magazine have kindly given permission for it to be reproduced here. It will specially appeal to those aged ones who once were so busy, but are now physically limited, but their minds go back over the years and they sometimes ask the question 'Why?' In the magazine the poem was headed by these references from scripture:
'I am shut up; I cannot go into the house of the Lord', Jer. 36. 5 'He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out', Lam. 3. 7 'The Lord . . . despiseth not his prisoners', Psa. 69. 33
Why may I not go fight? In days long past I led the van and pulled my sharpest steel,
Rallied the scattered, cheered the faint, at last broke alien ranks and made the proud foe reel,
Yet now behold my feeble helpless sword! Why may I not go fight for Thee, my Lord?
Mine was the hand first guided earliest plough; I bare the seed and scattered far and wide, 1 looked to reap (he golden grain, but now hope hoped against has reeled and well nigh died. Why must I lie here broken and alone while others reap from seed that I had sown?
May I not run with tidings for my King?
May I not carry water for the host?
May I not succour to my brethren bring, seek on the mountain wayward sheep and lost?
Am I to lie down useless till I die? Is there a reason? Wilt Thou tell my why?
Why wilt thou carry tidings, lead the host, scatter the seed of harvest, golden grain?
He chose this path for thee, Who loves thee most, a path inactive one of shade and pain,
Wilt thou not acquiesce, and cheerfully?
Not yet is harvest home, nor yet reward for service nobly borne, The triumph car still waits the day of days
When Christ the Lord shall lead the host of victors from the war Then, small beginnings, now forgot, shall bring superabundant honours from thy King.
The seed which thou hast sown in days long past
Shall yet bring fruit abundant, rich and rare:
The work attempted, toiled at, left at last for lack of strength
Yet left with Him in prayer-shall shine with brightest glory in that day,
Out of death, life-after gloom, brightest ray.
He judges motives, not results. Tis well 'twas in the heart
Yet so the work be done what reck who does it, thou or He?
To tell warfare accomplished, finished work, course run, will be a gladsome thing for both., His smile, rich compensation for the weary while.