This week marked my 30th birthday, and thanks to my sister’s secret planning it was the perfect day! However, as much as I enjoy birthday celebrations, I wasn’t really looking forward to this one. Thirty seems like a significant marker. . .of something! And I’m not sure that western society gives us a lot of positive messages when it comes to getting older. Most of the adverts that we see and the messages that we hear are to do with preventing ageing, looking younger, and staying current.
Have I unquestioningly taken my attitudes from the world around me? Or am I being shaped by God’s perspective? How can I think both realistically and optimistically about ageing?
We mustn’t ignore the difficulties of ageing in a broken world. There are some very real challenges that no one looks forward to. But the Bible equips us to deal with ageing – whether you’re a teenager or student, scared about your future, or approaching mid-life and wondering whether to have a crisis, or perhaps you’re in your seventies or eighties and laughing at those of us who think that thirty is a momentous milestone!
[I asked my family and a couple of friends for their thoughts, and they had wise things to say. So here you go – my first crowd-sourced post!]
1) Enjoy Your Youth & Use It Well: We laughed over Ecclesiastes contributions to this subject – essentially, enjoy your youth while you can, for “youth and vigour are meaningless” and will soon be gone! But we are meant to hear in this the warning to live wisely and for more lasting things.
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth (Ecclesiastes 11:10 & 12:1)
2) True Beauty Doesn’t Fade: We fear losing our strength and beauty as we age, and we go to great lengths to preserve them. But the Bible urges us to stop swimming in such shallow waters! True and lasting beauty is to fear the Lord, and to develop a character mellowed and shaped by faith and knowledge of God. He is the eternally beautiful one and over time his people start to share his beauty. (1 Peter 3:3-4, Proverbs 31:30) So we should focus on preserving our faith, holiness, and obedience as we age, rather than youth or physical beauty.
3) We Have a Renewable Source Of Strength! In a world where our strength can be taken by age, illness, or accident, we need the promises of God:
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:30-31
Enduring strength is given to those who trust in the Lord, for his provision never fails. (Psalm 18, Exodus 15:2)
4) We Grow in Wisdom & Influence: A great part of getting older is the opportunity to grow in wisdom and experience, and to enjoy the fruit of this in our work, relationships, and discipleship. We can serve more effectively, counsel and bless those who are younger, and experience new stages and opportunities that won’t have been open to us before. As my Dad pointed out: “The woman in Proverbs 31 is not a young woman, her influence and opportunities have grown as she has aged, and now she has the respect of her family and community, and the means and wisdom to bless many in ways she couldn’t have before.”
5) Ageing Should Remind Us What is Truly Important: Ageing is good for our discipleship(!) It forces us to grow in dependence on God, as we face the challenges of different ages and new stages. The fact that we are followers of Christ should govern our whole perspective on this – who cares what age we are as long as we continue to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness”.(Matthew 6:33)
Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4
So where is my focus? On Christ and the joys of walking with him until my hair is grey . . . or on those grey hairs alone?
6) We Have a Hope That Grows as We Age: My Mum says that she never feels negative about birthdays because “Each one represents a whole year of God’s sustenance and work in me.” As Christians we have unshakeable, certain hopes in the face of the trials of ageing – hopes that go beyond this life. One day we will be resurrected with gloriously redeemed bodies – but we won’t much care about how we look in comparison to the wonder of knowing and seeing Jesus Christ face to face!
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
There is so much more we could say, but I hope you find it as helpful as I have to think through some of these areas. Let me know in the comments if you have other perspectives to add!