Summary: Preached for Grandparents Day; talking about aging issues
Today is Grandparents Day. Marian McQuade campaigned for grandparents day because she appreciated her grandparents so much. President Jimmy Carter made grandparents day a national holiday on August 3, 1978. 3 purposes for grandparents day: 1) to commemorate and pay respect to grandparents 2) to recognize the importance that older people can have on the lives of the young 3) to give grandparents the opportunity to show love and support for their children’s children.
Overcoming fears of growing old is at the top of aging issues. In this culture, growing old brings few dividends. Becoming old no longer is prized or unique. A common impression of the aging process portrays it as fading into oblivion and dying. Little wonder that people want to live to a ripe old age but no one wants to grow old.
Struggles of the elderly:
A. Unrealistic Expectations
Even the Bible can be used to justify unrealistic expectations for the elderly- Moses lead the children of Israel when he was 80 years old and brought them to the promised land when he was 120- Caleb fought giants and took Hebron at the age of 85- Abraham fathered a child at the age of 100- and we could go on. However, these stand out because they are out of the norm. Many of the heroes of the Bible suffered infirmities common to aging. Isaac and Jacob experienced blindness in their old age. Isaac was tricked by Jacob and Rebekah because of his infirmities and he trembled when he was angry as if handicapped by palsy or some nervous disorder. David appears to be a weak, ineffective father and king in his old age. Solomon followed his wives gods when he aged. As Paul aged he suffered from a thorn in the flesh.
The Bible is full of examples of infirmities in the heroes of the faith as they age. Even the breakdown of a body in death is pictured with poetic candor (Ecclesiastes 12:2-8). Aging adults should not condemn bodily limitations as a sign of unfaithfulness or some kind of disfavor with God. The Bible teaches that honorable elders regularly experience an aging process with its resultant health problems. The Bible can shift an elder’s sense of worth away from unrealistic expectations for their health to a more balanced understanding of the aging process. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16, NIV.
B. Fears of inadequacy
Many elders never experience chronic brain disease or total physical inadequacy. Elderly leaders in the Bible contradict this misconception. They demonstrate that an aging body can perform at an optimum level. Many studies and statistics within the elderly population indicate that healthy aging adults can remain quite self sufficient. Some things to keep in mind that the Bible might shed some light on:
1. Sensuality of the elderly- it leaves them- not true. Abraham and Sarah demonstrate this as a lie with Isaac. Aging Zechariah and Elizabeth produce a son- John. Only a passage in 1 Timothy seems to indicate that sensuality leaves the elderly. 1 Timothy 5 is talking about widows and the widows being supported by the church. The young widows are encouraged to remarry and not be dependent upon the church. Older widows have no physical desires- not true, but the lack of elderly men makes the likelihood of marrying at an older age unlikely.
2. Growing old always leads to brain disease and a lack of mental soundness. True that the brain becomes more fragile and from this comes memory issues but this does not mean that the elderly are all senile. Just a few passages from the Bible refute this. Jacob becomes blind and somewhat dependent in his old age but still retains a clear mind. Jethro, the father in law of Moses, teaches Moses a better way to judge the people. Barzillai, an 80 year old man, provides supplies that save David and his army when he flees from Absalom. He remains sharp enough to be a prized asset in the court of David. Job said “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” Job 12:12, NIV.
3. Not that old age automatically brings wisdom, but to ignore the counsel of the aged is foolish. When Solomon died, King Rehoboam ignored the advise of the elders who served his father and instead followed the advise of his peers. This caused a division in the nation of Israel until the time of the Exile.
4. The bible teaches that aging may increase one’s potential contribution to others and to God’s work. Advanced years can free the body from the restraints of hard labor and a demanding calendar and can cause the mind to soar and focus on the truths of our faith.