Shortly before his death, Mark Twain wrote, “A myriad of men are born; they labor and sweat and struggle… they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other; age creeps upon them; infirmities follow… those they love are tak-en from them, and the joy of life is turned to aching grief. (The release) comes at last — the only unpoisoned gift earth ever had for them — and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence… a world which will lament them a day and for-get them forever.”
Well, that’s one way to look at life and old age, I suppose. We’re born, we live, we die. Ka-put.
As an old-timer myself, I sometimes wonder if my life means anything to anyone. Have I made a difference in my 70 years of life? Will anyone think about me a year after I’m dead?
And what is the purpose of old age? There comes a point where life seems to be over for us old-timers. We can’t do what we used to do.
We feel we’ve become a bur-den to our loved ones. Many of our old friends have died, and we live with loneliness as a poor substitute.
We start to believe we’re of no use to anyone anymore. Our bodies begin to fall apart, and there’s nothing any doctor or medication can do about it.
At the risk of depressing you further, read how Solomon de-scribed aging.
When the keepers of the house [your legs] tremble, and the strong men [your shoul-ders] stoop, when the grind-ers [your teeth] cease because they are few, and those look-ing through the windows [your eyes] grow dim; when the doors to the street [life’s opportuni-ties] are closed and the sound of grinding [work] fades; when people rise up [are awakened] at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; when people are afraid of heights [falling] and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms [your hair turns white] and the grasshopper drags it-self along [little energy] and de-sire [sexual] no longer is stirred. Then people go to their eternal home and mourners go about the streets (Ecclesiastes 12.3-5).
Solomon and Twain paint a bleak future of our destiny as we grow older. But is that the whole story? Is life for old-tim-ers dreary, lonely, and basically little more than waiting to die?
Absolutely not! Yes, old-tim-ers walk through the remaining years of life with a body that won’t do what they want it to do, and with a thinning num-ber of old friends to laugh and reminisce with. That’s no one’s dream for their final days.
But aging doesn’t mean your life is over. It doesn’t mean you lack purpose. That your produc-tive days are gone forever. Take these next verses to heart, my old-timer friend.
“Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4.16). Solomon only focused on the out-side — the body. And he was right, it is wasting away. BUT on the inside God renews you each of the remain-ing days of your life, even as your body falls apart and optimism slowly fades.
If you let God have his way, he’ll give you an inner spring to your step, an enthusiastic out-look for life, and a purpose to live for.
Whether you’re a shut-in, live in a nursing home, can get out of your bed, or have an abun-dance of medical issues, God has a mission for you to fulfill. Maybe it’s to pray for your chil-dren and grandchildren, or to send notes of encouragement to others. Lord knows people need to be encouraged these days.
Here’s a verse I adopted since I became an old-timer that moti-vates me daily. You can borrow it whenever you need. “They will still bear fruit in old age. They will stay fresh and green (Psalm 92.14).
With God a promise given is a promise kept — if you meet the conditions. In this case, you must get up from the sidelines and begin to plant spiritual seed in the hearts of others. Paul wrote these words shortly before he died: “I have fought the good fight, I have fin-ished the race, I have remained faithful” (2 Timothy 4.7). That’s what I’d like to say with my last breath. Don’t you?
Paul, the old-timer, finished strong. You can too if you shift your thinking about old age.
Other than Scripture, Gary Ryan Blair may have said it best: “It’s not the first, but the last step in the race…the last shot in the basket, the last vol-ley in tennis, the last swing of the bat that makes the lasting difference…for that is where the game is won and that is why you must always finish strong.”
Dedicate yourself to finish strong, Old-Timer. I believe in you.
Steve Wilmot is a former Edg-erton, Ohio area pastor who now seeks “to still bear fruit in old age” through writing. He is the author of seven books designed to assist believers to make steady progress on their spiritual journey.