The righteous flourish . . . They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green.
—Psalm 92:12, 14
Susan’s Question: How Can I Be Fruitful in This Season?
For years I read Psalm 92 and rushed past the part about being fruitful in old age. I loved being a Titus 2 older woman who spiritually mothers younger women, but “old age” didn’t seem to apply—I didn’t feel old. Then, as my diminishing physical and mental abilities reminded me that I was approaching my eightieth birthday, something changed. I felt old.
My friend Sharon and I began talking and praying about what it means to glorify and enjoy God in old age. How could we be fruitful when we were increasingly giving up various responsibilities and activities we loved? Thus began a sweet and sacred journey of two friends asking the Lord to teach us to trust His promise in Psalm 92 and to experience the wonder of flourishing in old age. The more we learned, the more compelled we were to continue being Titus 2 women by encouraging and equipping others to age with grace.
Flourishing is a dominant word in Scripture. At creation God told the earth to “sprout vegetation” (Gen. 1:11, emphasis added). He told Adam and Eve to be “fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28, emphasis added). Before Jesus returned to heaven, He commissioned us to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19, emphasis added)—to be fruitful and multiply spiritually. And the gospel imperative to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18, emphasis added) does not have an age limit. These lively words make us think of activity and productivity yet aging decreases our activity and productivity.
How Do We Think Biblically about Flourishing?
Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:23–24). Jesus is speaking of His death and glorification, and He is showing us the way of fruitfulness. As counter intuitive as it seems, flourishing is the progressive death of self and growth of the life of Christ in us.
The “much fruit” that comes from dying to self and living for Christ is not produced by self-effort. As we submit to the means of grace God provides for our growth—the Word, prayer, worship, sacraments, fellowship—we are “transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). This fruit is spiritual. It’s eternal. It’s the fruit of repentance (Matt. 3:8), the fruit of righteousness (Phil. 1:11), the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Flourishing is not doing more; it’s becoming more like Christ. As we age, the world and our flesh tell us we are useless. If we believe this lie we become fearful, resentful, bitter, and lonely. If we believe God’s Word, the fruit He produces becomes sweeter with age.
I’m eighty-one and Sharon is seventy-three. We have known and walked with Jesus for decades, but we are continually surprised and delighted with the increasing intimacy of our relationship with Him. As we look back, we realize with gratitude that nothing was random and nothing was wasted. The Lord used it all to progressively transform us into His likeness, and now all the things we have learned and experienced are yielding a harvest of greater faith, hope, love, joy, peace, and gratitude. There is greater trust in the power and privilege of prayer. I can honestly say with wonder as I sit in my recliner, “I think this is the most fruitful season of my life.” He daily “makes me glad with the joy of His presence” (Psalm 21:6).
Sharon’s Choice: Life over Hopelessness
As Susan and I prayed about writing what we were learning, our focus was on helping women think biblically about aging and to live covenantally as older women. This became the format for the book. We alternate chapters. Susan writes on thinking biblically using Psalms 92 and 71, and I write about an older woman in the Bible who illustrates the Aging with Grace principles in Susan’s chapters.
The life journeys of Anna (Luke 2:25–38), Elizabeth (Luke 1:5–48), the Matriarchs of Jeremiah (Jer. 29) ,and Naomi (Ruth 1–4) are written with a flourish, an exclamation point at the end of each story, drawing attention to the faithfulness of God to keep the promise of Psalm 92. These women have spiritually mothered us.
I was forty-five years old when our sixteen-year-old son Mark and his friend Kelly were in a fatal car accident. I often say that if my body didn’t know how to breathe on its own, the grief would have killed me. I struggled to reconcile God’s love with His sovereignty. I could not imagine living a long life rooted in such despair and sorrow. The women we showcase challenged me to realize that choices I made at forty-five would impact my life as an elderly woman. I could become a bitter, old woman known by her grief or I could trust God to keep the promise of Psalm 92 that I will flourish and bear fruit in old age.
Eighty-four year-old Anna, the woman whose husband died after seven years of marriage, taught me to choose worship that flows into everyday tasks in the most broken places of life. Barren Elizabeth, who was very old according to Luke, taught me to surrender lifelong dreams and trust the Lord to keep His promises even though keeping them seemed impossible. Naomi taught me to lament in a way that turns my heart toward Jesus. And the matriarchs of Jeremiah taught me to die to self and “do the next thing” for the sake of the next generation. These women experienced enormous loss as they grew older. Flourishing in old age must have felt like an impossible dream, yet we watch as they choose life over hopelessness. They chose the road of life and as a result they were life-givers, and their stories still bear fruit as they help us flourish.
How Can I Flourish in Difficult Situations?
Maybe you’re thinking, I don’t see how it’s possible for me to flourish when . . .
I’m estranged from my children.
I can’t move past my grief.
All my friends have moved or died; I’m alone and no one cares.
I gave up on God giving me the desires of my heart a long time ago; it’s too late for me.
You are not alone in feeling helpless. Growing in grace is impossible, not just for you but for all of us—yet Jesus said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27). God promises that when we are planted in His house, He will do the impossible—grow fruit that shows up in old people, fruit designed to not only transform our fearful hearts to peaceful, trusting hearts as we navigate the foreign land of old age, but fruit that nourishes others as well. We invite you to get to know these older women whose stories teach us we sometimes don’t recognize the fruit of a life rooted in Jesus until confronted with the challenges of aging.