Growing Old With Grace

When I was young, old age never bothered me. In fact, I would be hard pressed to even remember a time when I wondered for a fleeting moment what it would be like to grow old. It was other people that grew old – like grandparents. However, it is amazing what almost five decades will do to one’s perspective.

Yesterday, I was reminded again of the passing of years as someone I really did not know passed away and went to be with the Lord they loved. This individual was quite elderly and known to others I love. This brother in Christ had spent years sharing and teaching the Word of God. Despite being racked at times with pain, the main diseases that was eating him away was not what ultimately took him from this life of toil and pain. He closed his eyes in sleep as his heart gave out and woke up in a place where he would never sleep or be in pain again.

When I heard the news, I was reminded again that time is creeping up on us and flies back so quickly. James put it so succinctly when he said in James 4:14, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

vapor

As I write this, it is a special day for another reason. Forty-four years ago today, in the cold, wind-swept, bone-chilling landscape of the country of Iceland, a healthy young boy was born. Almost from the first day my brother was brought home from the hospital, he was happy. He was the life of the party and often the clown. Yes, we had our ups and downs, but John David made the most of whatever oppositions got in his way.

In late 1995, John had just left the USAF with an honorable discharge and was making a home for himself in North Carolina. He had found a body of believers that he dearly loved and he had spent time with the men on a retreat where his heart was stirred to be more like the Lord Jesus Christ.

However, all of that changed when he went to work one cold November morning. I received a call that I should meet at the hospital. Arriving, I found out that my brother, who was less than 5 years younger than me had passed away at the young age of 22. He had acquired an infection in his heart and when his heart exploded, he was gone before he hit the floor.

That was 21 years ago. There are still times the pain and loneliness of not hearing his voice or the endless jokes is emotionally difficult. Even back then, we spoke of him lovingly at the funeral and afterwards, but old age was still a long ways off. I didn’t really dwell on the reality that it was still going to come for all who are left to face the world.

Far from this maddening world, my brother no longer has to walk the dark paths of these Shadowlands, as C.S. Lewis called them. John’s path led him to a promotion that is far better than anything he could have experienced in this life. In fact, the moment he crossed from death into life, the joys he would have known would have been crowned by meeting the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. That is not something that any true believer would want to take away from another believer. Yes, we miss those who have gone before us, and we can hope that others will miss us when it comes time for us to depart this life.

However, until it is time for us to close our eyes to sin, death, and the grave, we must focus on living our lives in such a way that we will hear, “Well done, you are a good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of the Lord!” We have no reason to fear the door of death. For the believer, the door is only the opening to the wonders of what eternity holds and the half can never be told this side of heaven.

To me, this world is not really my home. I grow tired of the pain and the struggles that assail the flesh and the heart. If I should be left another 10, 20, or 30 years, I struggle to accept that more illnesses and heartache may well be my lot in life as it has been for much of my life.

inheaven

Each year that passes, I strangely find that growing old is something that did not really sneak up on me. Each year was filled with memories that resonate in my mind and heart. Each memory, whether good or bad or indifferent or sad or happy, was created as I lived the path that God had ordained for me to walk. One day, those memories may be forgotten as I get even older, but it will not diminish what I have been allowed to do by a gracious God who has been more merciful and gracious to me than I have or will ever deserve.

We live from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, month to month, and year to year. The time is precious and should be spent without regrets before the Lord. I do not fear the age I have become, but I welcome it because it puts me closer to the day when I will see the saints who have gone before me. I will see my grandparents, my brother, and friends who loved the Lord as well.

Growing older does have both advantages and disadvantages, but knowing what comes next makes the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. As believers, we are called to endure this race. Whether we are called to go at a young age or at an elderly age, our race is being encouraged on the sidelines of heaven by the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. Therefore, it behooves us to run the race while looking to Jesus Christ alone!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1, 2

No Disappointment

Disappointment is defined as “the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the non-fulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.”

There are many things in life that can and do cause disappointment. Disappointments are like storms that can threaten to overwhelm your heart and soul. It could be the loss of a promotion when you feel that you were qualified for the position that was given to another person. Maybe the disappointment brings sadness when holiday times do not measure up to your hopes or expectations.

What about when your children do not follow your commands? We say that they have disappointed us. Simply put, our minds and hearts are sad or displeased because our children failed to live up to our hopes or expectations.

As we grow older in life, we find that our hopes or expectations of a good long life free of health issues produces disappointments. We realize that life is not easy and that our hopes continue to be dashed with each advancing year and trip to the doctor. One day they take tests and reveal a life-threatening illness, or maybe they are just not able to determine what is causing the severe pain. Either way, we have feelings of sadness because this is not what we could have imagined when we were young and in excellent health.

calmstorm

Life is full of times that cause sadness and displeasure. Life is full of sadness because we are fallen creatures. Sin has caused our minds and hearts to run from what is perfect or ideal in each situation. Our chosen paths do not reflect the image in which we were created and thus we end up with more sadness and displeasure.

Our hopes and expectations do not come to fruition and then we try to make sense of the aftermath. What do we do with that disappointment? Do we allow it to overwhelm us or do we strive to rise above the clouds of despair and set new goals?

The Scriptures are full of times when disappointment was the order of the day throughout different periods of history. Adam and Eve must have been disappointed when they learned the news of Cain killing his own brother. Despite having prepared for 120 years, Noah must have felt a keen disappointment that there were only seven other people in the boat with him while the remainder of the world perished.

Surely, Joseph was disappointed when he was sold into slavery by his brothers and realized that he would probably never see them again. Yet, there was a ray of hope, grace, and redemption at the end of the account. Joseph and his brothers were ultimately reconciled and Joseph revealed the answer to life’s most poignant disappointments.

Are you ready for this? In this answer, you too can understand what many cannot or will not grasp. The answer to all the disappointments is a full recognition of who is in charge of every aspect of your life. Without taking full knowledge of this answer, you and I will long struggle with what happens to us from day to day. We will continue to be filled with sadness and displeasure when our hopes and expectations flee from us like dew before the morning sun. As James 4:14 puts it so eloquently, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

Joseph had to go through a great deal of disappointments in order for him to finally learn the truth. Life was not about him. It was not about his brothers. In fact, life was not even about the hardships that he had endured. Was his life full of various disappointments? Yes, of course, but those disappointments are not ultimately what made Joseph such a wise person.

His point of wisdom is found in Genesis 50:20.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

The Hebrew word for evil is also translated in other verses as wickedness, mischief, hurt, trouble, affliction, adversity, harm, or sad. In other words, it is not just the evil out of the heart of man that God means for good to us. There is a reason why you are going through the disappointments of life.

To take the cue from Joseph, maybe we should memorize this verse in Genesis 50. When the disappointments of life come, then we should be learning to say:

“As for you, you meant hurt or trouble or affliction or adversity or disappointment to or against me, BUT God meant it for good.”

joseph

Understanding this will enable us to put aside feelings of sadness and displeasure when it seems like our lives are falling apart. Instead of allowing disappointment to overwhelm us like shadows in the valleys of life, we can appreciate verses like James 4:15 where the apostle continues by sharing with true believers, “Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

Or, we can even appreciate opening up the wonderful passage in Romans 8 where we learn that all the things that God is working together in our lives is for the express purpose of making us more like His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the total sovereignty of God in action. Our biggest problem as true believers is that we fail to note this every day. Disappointments come and go, yet one thing remains sure –

There’s no disappointment in Jesus!

*****

There was a hymn written before World War 2 that is rarely heard anymore, but I leave the words for you to consider. May they be an encouragement to your heart and mind.

There’s No Disappointment in Jesus

1) There’s no disappointment in Jesus,
He’s more than my tongue can tell;
His love is so sure
And so steadfast,
His friendship divine will not fail.

Chorus
There’s no disappointment in Jesus,
He’s all that He promised to be;
His love and His care
Comfort me everywhere;
He is no disappointment to me.

2) There’s no disappointment in Jesus,
Tho’ sorrows may press me sore.
He comforts with tender compassion,
His love cheers my heart evermore.

3) There’s no disappointment in Jesus,
He satisfies me alway;
So strong and so willing to help me,
In Him I find comfort each day,

John C. Hallett © 1940 Renewal 1968 Word Music, LLC