I feel like I’m about 23 years old mentally. Hopefully I have a little more wisdom than I did at age 23, but I don’t feel “old” in my mind. Then I look in the mirror in the morning. Who is that wrinkled guy gaping back at me? Yep, I’m old. I used to sing “Old man, look at my life” by Neil Young. Now I is one. When I turned 64 this January I sang the Beatles song to my wife, “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?” She said no.
I try not to act old though. I try not to say “Consarn it!” or “Dagnabit!” too often. I try not to call teenagers “whippersnappers.” I let people know how hip and cool I am by saying things like, “You like that new song by the Mumford Sons?”
God has been kind to me. Overall my health is pretty good. But I’ve got to face it – I’m wasting away. I’m not as strong as I used to be. I lifted some heavy bags a few weeks ago and my arm has been sore ever since. I got a stent two years ago and now take blood thinner and blood pressure meds. I’m not ready for my wife to put me into a home yet, though she threatens to do so every once in a while. But the truth is, I’m aging. I’m wasting away.
But it doesn’t depress me. Maybe if I was in constant pain or suffering a debilitating disease I’d be discouraged. And that would be understandable. But simply getting older and weaker doesn’t discourage me. My bald spot is getting bigger. My beard is getting grayer. My skin is getting looser. My muscles are sagging, despite attempting to do push-ups and crunches regularly. But I’m okay with it.
Not long ago someone said to me, “Getting old is hell.” It would be hellish if you thought this life was it. It would be depressing to waste away, lose your strength and abilities. To fear you might fall down and not be able to get up. To be confined to a wheelchair. But believers who suffer in these ways have Christ and hope in him. Those without Christ have no hope. In that case, wasting away is hellish.
Truth is, sooner or later, all of us will waste away. But though believers in Jesus decline physically just like everyone else, we have hope. Paul says in 2 CO 4:16-18:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Paul doesn’t deny that we age, get sick and go downhill. But he says this doesn’t cause believers to lose heart. Why not? Because “our inner self is being renewed day by day.” Every day God makes us more like Jesus. He transforms us from one degree of glory to another (2 CO 3:18). And our suffering in this life, even the suffering that comes with aging, is but momentary and light compared to the eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison that our afflictions are preparing.
The secret to not losing heart is this – it’s what we look to. If we look to the things of this life – things that are seen – to make us happy or satisfy us – things like our health, our looks, our strength – we will lose heart. Because these things are transient. Passing. Fading. Destined to go away. We can’t keep them. We can’t keep our youth. We can’t keep our looks. So Paul says, “we look not to” these things. Instead, we look to the things that are unseen – eternal things. We look Jesus and our heavenly Father. We meditate on God’s holiness, majesty, goodness, mercy, glory, power, love and faithfulness. We look forward to heaven. When we look to these things we don’t lose heart. We don’t deny that our outer self is wasting away. But we aren’t depressed when it happens either because we have hope.
Yes, I’m wasting away outwardly. But I see Jesus at work in me day by day. So I don’t lose heart. I may lose my hearing but I don’t lose heart. I lose my hair but I don’t lose hope. Praise God for giving us an eternal weight of glory to look forward to.
Consarn it! What’s that sound? Oh, it’s my cell phone. Now where’d I put my trifocals? Oh here they are. Owwww! Stabbed myself in the eye! What happened? My phone quit ringing. Dagnabit! Now I’ll never know who called. Oh well. Now what did I do with those dentures?
*photo by Tom Hussey