Leviticus 19:32 teaches - "You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD." Man should have special regard and consideration for the aged. There is much to be gleaned from their experiences. Tragically, those who are advanced in years in our culture are often not highly regarded but rather viewed as a nuisance.
I read recently about an activity called granny dumping. It refers to the practice of leaving elderly people at the doorsteps of hospitals and then quickly speeding off to leave the nurses and staff with the task of figuring out the person's identity, insurance coverage, and plans for the future. Would you believe that this happens to countless senior citizens each year in America? Should we be surprised by this? Not really. Why should we expect people to respect the lives of the elderly when we continue to allow the murder of the unborn?
However, besides the threat of being neglected or abused by others, most dangers that the elderly face are self-imposed:
1. It is dangerous to think that years alone bring wisdom. "Age should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom" (Job 32:7). But, years do not always teach because some people are unable to profit from their experiences. Gray matter has solved more problems than gray hair. If you are up-in-years, then there is a good chance that you have acquired much wisdom, but such is not guaranteed. Likewise, those who are younger will typically lack the wisdom that experience brings, but that is also not certain. There are old folks who are fools and there are young people who are wise, but such is not typical.
2. Feelings of futility and despair are a significant danger to many elderly folks. Here we look to Caleb and the Israelite's conquering of Canaan for another inspiring example. At the age of 85, he could have rendered himself useless by living in the past instead of the present and for the future. He could have patted himself on the back for past accomplishments, and then begged to be excused from the present struggle because of his age. Certainly the time comes for the aged to retire from their livelihood if they wish, but this gives them more time to serve God and man. There is never a time to withdraw from the struggles of life and focus entirely upon oneself. Such behavior will only lead to feelings of futility and despair. When we get older we are typically not able to do all the things we did when we were young, but we should do what we can. And, if we follow this advice, it is less likely that we will develop feelings of futility or despair.
3. Similarly, some elderly men and women are in danger of developing a sour and fussy disposition. A life consecrated and devoted to God can guard anyone against such a danger. As the physical man weakens, the spiritual man should become stronger (cf. II Cor. 4:16). But, the person who forgets God will see difficult days come and the years draw close when he shall say, "I have no pleasure in them" (Eccl. 12:1). Consequently, it has been said before: "The devil has no happy old people." If you allow the disappointments, heartaches, and obstacles of life to transform you into a cynical critic and a grouchy grumbler, then you may be assured that the devil is hot on your trail. Beware!
4. There is always the danger of becoming unfaithful to God in one's later years. As you face the setting sun of life, you should say with great faith - "Now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed" (Rom. 13:11). There is no greater tragedy than an old person denying the faith by word or deed. To be faithful so many years and then overcome by Satan is an utter shame. So near to home and yet lost! It is not how we start the race, but how we finish it that really counts.
As we get older and older, we as Christians should press onward with this faith and philosophy: We do not know the future, but we know the God who does!
So friends, how old are you? Honestly, it really doesn't matter, does it? Abraham Lincoln once said: "In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."
Chronological age is irrelevant. So, whether you are 9 or 90, do whatever is in your power to serve the Lord (realizing that each stage of life has certain dangers that must be faced). And let us rejoice in the physical life we have, all the while looking forward to life eternal that has been reserved for God's faithful ones!