How long will you live? This may be uncomfortable to consider, but seriously–how many more years do you think you have in this life before you, too, succumb to the decline and ultimate demise all human bodies eventually experience? When we are young and healthy or simply haven’t yet seen many friends and loved ones age and eventually die, we subconsciously feel that life–how it is today–will continue indefinitely. Of course we know people do die because there are hospitals, morgues, and cemeteries to remind us, but it somehow doesn’t hit home that I WILL TOO SOMEDAY.
“As the Scriptures say, ‘People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades.'” ( I Peter 1:24)
I will be fifty-five on my next birthday. Quite honestly, I did well until several years ago. I tried to eat wisely and not put on excessive weight, got sufficient sleep, and really didn’t drink or abuse drugs, so for the duration of almost thirty years of adult life my body held its own. Yet I realize that as with all–if it hasn’t yet and we live long enough–sooner or later some degree of decline will arrive to each and every one of us. As a woman ages, her body eventually says she can no longer conceive children and a physiological shift occurs. Wrinkles that were not there before appear, facial features become more pronounced, hair thins, skin tone changes. Men, too, are forced to tackle issues that were previously nonexistent, and their appearance likewise changes. Granted, we can fight the ravages of time through prudent living, or even medication or surgery, but God simply hasn’t ordained for the human body to exist eternally in its current condition. Even in cultures that tend to see longer lifespans, one hundred twenty or so seems to be the upper cap.
Not only do our bodies decline, over time we also live through the illnesses and deaths of various acquaintances, friends, and family. At first, it is only a sprinkling of one or two individuals: an older great-aunt or grandparent, or a classmate involved in substance abuse who died out of sequence. Eventually, however, it becomes parents and peers, and when those you look up to as role models in life–those only slightly ahead of you in parenting or career–age and experience the demise of their bodies, you realize your turn may not be far away either. So what should our response be? How should we react?
People respond in various ways when it hits home that they are aging. Some experience an infamous “midlife crises” and start acting out in sinful and futile ways–infidelity, wasting time and money, grasping at a youth that is no longer there and which no amount of panic will bring back. Yet aging is as it should be. God has ordained the various stages of our lives–they are there for a reason, even as a mercy to foolish mankind. Imagine how terrible it would be if we all lived physically vigorous as a twenty-year-old until the moment of death: how many more would spend their eternity separated from God forever, simply because it never occurred to them there was anything more than this life and how much they need Him!
Please don’t misunderstand. I thoroughly believe life, at whatever age, can be beautiful if done right–if lived in faithful fellowship with our Creator/Redeemer/Sustainer God! And although the longer we survive the more likely it seems we will eventually succumb to one ailment or another, I do not believe later maturity is a time necessarily predestined to misery. Yet trials of any kind and at any age are what God uses to conform us to the image of Christ and turn our thoughts heaven-ward.
We learn in James 1:2-4 that we should, “…count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
I Peter 1:5-7 tells us that we, “…are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith…may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
And in II Corinthians 4:16-18 we are told, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporarily but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
A purpose of trials, of course, is to present us with something bigger than ourselves so we realize we need God and come closer to Him. Thus, misery of any kind achieves one of two ends–it either directs our thoughts God- and heaven-ward, or it provides an opportunity for us to metaphorically further shake our fists in rebellion at Him.
I find great comfort in the fact that God has allowed me to live long enough to see some gray hair–I consider it a privilege. And while I don’t condemn those who choose to color, I suspect I might leave mine alone because it confers a certain honor. The New Living Translation says, “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life.” (Proverbs 16:31) I have also already had both hips replaced, and although I am pain and medication free at the moment, I have no guarantee I will remain so. So how will I continue? By faith “…in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)–and I urge each and every one of you to do the same.
I urge each and every one of you to make the Bible your best friend. It is not an archaic relic from a previous age–it should be more familiar to you than breath itself. Its words are our life–they are what the only true God of heaven and earth has recorded for our well-being and so we can be reconciled to Him and share His presence and glory forever; they are what we survive on and how we make it to the ultimate end of our human life here on earth!
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Amen.