God’s Heart for the Elderly and Infirm

God’s Heart for the Elderly and Infirm June 24, 2024

One of the many problems facing Western society is that we worship youth and make the elderly disposable. Euthanasia, which is legal in my home state of Oregon, is simply abortion of the elderly, disabled, and terminally ill. The same logic and arguments and appeals to “compassion” and quality of life and financial concerns are used for both.

God’s perspective on the elderly is vastly different. He told the Israelites, “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am Yahweh” (Leviticus 19:32).  God has a purpose for the elderly, up to their last moment of life. He describes gray hair as “a crown of glory” (Proverbs 16:31). That’s why God’s command to care for the weak and needy includes both the unborn, at the very beginning of life, and the elderly, at the very end: “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:3-4).

Happily, there are societies around the world that do venerate the elderly, and they are examples to us. Think of the experience and wisdom the older person has gained in all his or her years of life. They have so much to offer others. “Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12) is a command we should take seriously! And even those elderly people who seemingly don’t have much, or even anything, to offer are still to be honored because they are human beings made in God’s image, precious to Him. (I was very touched by this Worldview Moments video, where Dr. Del Tackett tells a personal story about the joy he saw in a woman who loved music. What a beautiful story, showing how life matters at every stage.)

The Best Is Still Ahead

There is deep comfort in knowing that our believing loved ones, as they age and weaken, have not passed their peak, as the world imagines. They have yet to reach their peak. And if a peak is ever reached in the next world (I doubt it will be), there will never be a subsequent decline. The thrill of being in the presence of Christ will never wear off, and the adventures ahead of us will always be better than the ones behind. Our God offers not the end of longing, but the continual fulfillment of it—infinite joy and gratitude to the One who did it all for us. Our believing loved ones, whether parents or children or spouses or friends, will be there to greet us, likely eager to show us some favorite places. For those who know the grace of Jesus, the ultimate reunion awaits us.

In the meantime, often God uses waning health and vitality not only to increase impact on others who benefit by caring for the elderly (my father and I gained a much closer relationship in his final years, when he needed my help), but by preparing the sick and elderly for Heaven. It is easier to let go of this world when there is no realistic hope that our health will improve, but only get worse. Now the whispers of Heaven become glad shouts of invitation: “Come here, where all will be right—not again, but for the first time!” As the blind relish the promise of sight, and the lame the promise of full mobility, the sick long for health, and the old long for the fresh vitality of youth.

What about When the Elderly Is…Us?

After playing tennis at an athletic club, I overheard two retired men saying, “We’re not much use anymore, are we?” They were joking, but only sort of. They seemed to feel it was mostly true.

Our physical and mental abilities can and will decrease over time, but may we as God’s children never feel useless. We can always pray, and we can usually speak and mentor and reach out in the name of Jesus, and show the love of Christ and the wisdom of having invested our lives in Him.

Psalm 92 says of the elderly, “They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green” (v. 14). God describes His people as those “who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you” (Isaiah 46:3-4).

Susan Hunt writes in Aging with Grace: Flourishing in an Anti-Aging Culture:

Old age, when life becomes quieter and slower, is prime time to reflect on the power of the gospel to change us. It is also a time when we are tempted to think small—to think about our aches and pains, our disappointments and unrealized expectations. Will we be good stewards of our old age? Even as physical strength diminishes, will we pursue our destiny—knowing God?

As we grow older, let’s not sit in the rocking chair looking back at those days when we served God. On the contrary, let’s serve God with greater zeal. Let’s pour ourselves into serving others for the glory of God. None of us knows how much time we have left in this world, but in terms of eternity, the time for all of us is very short. No matter what our age, we can all benefit from this perspective. As missionary C. T. Studd put it, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Photo: Pexels

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