Water for the Thirsty
Weekly Devotional

Water for the Thirsty

Growing Old Gracefully

Weekly Devotional

‘As the deer pants for streams of water so my soul pants for you, O God’. (Psalm 42:1)
‘…Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink”…’ (John 7:37)

The UK population is ageing. It is projected that by 2031, the UK population will include 3 million people aged over 85 increasing from 1.2 million in 2006 and around 0.6 million in 1981.1

Trouble is old age is not something we like to talk about very much. Oh we may talk about preparing for retirement, but only with the greatest reluctance do we talk about or make preparations for frailty, infirmity and death.

Very few talk about these matters openly and frankly without dwelling morbidly on them – Which actually shows how frightened we are by them.

More often than not we suppress any talk about them – Which actually shows how frightened we are by them.

As a Christian wouldn’t it be great for us to learn how to age faithfully and how to die well?

This is what the psalmist wanted:

“Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone. . . Even when I am old and grey, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come” (Psalm 71:9, 18).

From his youth, he knew, God had taught him (v. 17). Now he prays against abandonment in old age.

At one level, the psalmist is asking that God will protect him against outside attacks when he is too old and infirm to resist:

“For my enemies speak against me; those who wait to kill me conspire together. They say, "God has forsaken him; pursue him and seize him, for no one will rescue him." Be not far from me, O God; come quickly, O my God, to help me. May my accusers perish in shame; may those who want to harm me be covered with scorn and disgrace”. (v. 10-13).

It is right and good to ask God for special protection when we grow so elderly and infirm that it is easy for others to take advantage of us.

But the psalmist’s vision is more comprehensive than mere protection. He wants to live in old age so that he passes on his witness to the next generation. His aim is not to live comfortably in retirement, but to use his senior years in the service of the Lord:

“But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign LORD; I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone...to declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.” (v. 14-16, 18)

Now that is a prayer eminently worth praying.

As we get older and more frail we can often think that there little we can effectively do in Christian ministry. But if you are a senior Christian how about praying for the protection and grace to be able to pass on what you have learned to a new generation?

Perhaps this will be through one on one mentoring, sharing your experiences in small groups, or simply talking with and encouraging those new to the faith.

And when there is too little strength even for these things, will we pray that God’s grace will so operate in our weakness that God will be glorified in us?

If so then we’ll be teaching younger Christians how to persevere under suffering, how to trust in the midst of pain, and how to die in the grace of God.

And we’ll find, along with the psalmist, that “[God] will increase my honour and comfort me once again”. (v. 21).

1 Office of National Statistics (2008) Population Trends, No. 131, London: HMSO.

Have a good week passing the baton,

Pastor Barry

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