December 2, 1997
My dad had a sign in his workshop that read, “Never take life too seriously. . . you’ll never get out of it alive.”
As certain as death is, life expectancy is at an all-time high: 75.8 years in the U.S. and it could be a little higher in Canada. Fear of dying plus this expectancy contributes to a common practice of joking about death rather than seriously discussing this universal certainty.
My dad, now eighty-eight years old, used to be one of those who never talked about death. Whenever anyone he knew died, his bulging temples gave away the fact that he was troubled and grinding his teeth, but he never said anything.
Increasing frailty and aching bones have made his life less enjoyable yet like most seniors, he realizes more than we do, how precious life is and that both life and death should be taken seriously. Life is a gift from God and we are responsible for what we do with that gift. Further, death is not the end because the Bible says that all die but all will also be resurrected. It clearly points out that what we do with this life will have a bearing on the quality of the next.
Author Eugene Peterson says that to live well and in harmony with God is the best way to spend our years on earth. He says obedience to God is not difficult but sin is difficult. Sin throws us out of kilter with the intention of our Creator. We were not made to sin and it harms our quality of life in every way.
For example, using addictive drugs destroys a person’s health, warps their thinking and ruins their usefulness. Adultery weighs down the mind with guilt, ruins intimacy with one’s spouse and raises havoc with families, sometimes splitting them and leaving hearts in pieces. This is not how God intended we use our years.
Someone once asked me what I wanted to be “when I grew up” and I replied, “I want to be a sweet little old lady” yet aging well is a challenge. According to the Bible, grey hair can be a crown of splendor, but only if it is attained by a righteous life.
We never start out righteous but if somewhere along the time line, we acknowledge our sin and failure to God, and receive the righteousness of Christ, we can begin to age well through taking the lessons of life seriously. When God uses them to shape our faith and give us godly character, we can not only finish well but with joy and courage.
The Old Testament cites Moses as one example. He “was a hundred and twenty when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.” Caleb was another. At eighty-five, he could say, “I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out (forty years prior); I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.”
Aging well means being able to approach death without fear. The Bible says that “the last enemy to be destroyed is death” and that Christ Jesus has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” By sharing in our humanity and dying for our sins, He “destroyed the one who holds the power of death—the devil—and set free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
In the seniors’ lodge where my parents live, some residents are cheerful and enjoying their remaining years. Thankfully, Mom and Dad are among that group. Dad has changed; he talks about death and even expresses his hope that the Lord will soon come and take him home.
Others in the lodge happily speak about their faith in the Lord. The God of peace is helping them to age gracefully and with joy. From them, I clearly see that if I am to be a sweet little old lady someday, faith in Christ and walking alongside God will take me there.