Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Trusting God’s Faithfulness to the Finish Line

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Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says life doesn’t necessarily get easier as you get older!

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: A long faithful walk with God does not spare us from hardship when we’re old.

Leslie: But she’s about to tell you why you can trust God all of your days. This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of A Place of Quiet Rest, for August 29, 2018.

Nancy: Next week I have a big birthday coming up. It’s my sixtieth birthday! Some of you have heard about that, and I’ve received a lot of sweet notes and cards already from people who are celebrating with me. I have to say, I’m asking myself, “How in the world did this happen?!”

It seems like twenty was really not that long ago at all. And yet, I have a lot of clues that I’m not twenty. I’m just sporting these new glasses, “progressives.” I didn’t even know what progressive glasses were until really recently. They’ve helped my distance problem, but I’m still trying to figure out how to read with them. And when you get close, I can’t really see you very well.

I figure this is why women this age don’t have babies, because if we did, we’d have to hold them out here to see who they were.

So lots of changes taking place. My goal in life, many of you have heard me say over the years, was always (from the time I was a little girl) to be a godly, old lady.

And now? I don’t know when you call yourself “an old lady,” but I’m a lot closer to whatever that is! I always had this very grand, amazing thing of what it meant to be a godly, old lady. Then I realized that time goes fast, one day upon another, and you are there . . . and you don’t know how you got there so fast.

I’m taking some time to just recalibrate and ask the Lord for perspective and wisdom. There’s a lot to be said about aging, a lot of humorous things you hear about aging. I read something recently about the perks of being over sixty:

  1. Kidnappers are not interested in you.
  2. In a hostage situation you’re likely to be released first.
  3. No one expects you to run into a burning building.
  4. People call at 9 p.m. and ask, “Did I wake you?”
  5. People no longer view you as a hypochondriac.
  6. There’s nothing left to learn the hard way.
  7. Things you buy now won’t wear out.
  8. You can eat dinner at 4 pm.
  9. You enjoy hearing about other people’s operations.
  10. You have a party and the neighbors don’t even realize it.
  11. You no longer think of speed limits as a challenge.
  12. You quit trying to hold your stomach in, no matter who walks into the room.
  13. You sing along with the elevator music.
  14. Your eyes won’t get much worse.
  15. Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.
  16. Your joints are more accurate than the National Weather Service.
  17. Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can’t remember them either.
  18. And . . . you can’t remember who sent you this list.

So a lot of terms used to talk about older people. I read something recently on a blogpost called Daily Writing Tips. It was a list of forty-five synonyms for “old” and “old-fashioned.” Here are some of those: “aged, ancient, antiquated, archaic, dated, decrepit, dottering, fossilized, kaput, obsolete, outdated, over-the-hill, passé, prehistoric, quaint, rusty, senile, Stone Age, and vintage”

Some of us would rather be “vintage” than some of those other terms. If you’re being particularly concerned about political correctness, you might say “chronologically gifted” (laughter)

So the world’s view of aging is something that we all hear a lot about. It ranges from denial to humor to . . .

I read an article earlier this week about (I could hardly believe) how it’s possible to come to the place where you won’t die—where you can just get older and older and older and older. I’m not sure I want that to be the case here on this old Earth. I want the new Heaven and the new Earth.

I read a piece for non-profit organizations that talked about some things you should not do when writing about or for older people. Number one,

Don’t call them “old,” “elderly,” or “senior citizens.” The whole concept of who is old has become very slippery. Yes, to a young child, almost any adult is old, but to the rest of us only people who are a whole lot older than ourselves are old. Use the word “older,” never “old”—as in “older people.”

“Elderly” should only be used as a modifier, as in “elderly patients,” and only when referring to those who are truly old and frail. Do not use it as a general term for all those in later life. This is considered stigmatizing, since not all older people are fragile. Avoid “senior citizen” in your communications. To most older people, being called a senior citizen is just a euphemism for “old” and “elderly.” “Senior” is still acceptable to many older people, but don’t use “senior” to describe anyone younger than sixty-five. . . .

One prominent journalist said that this label conjures up dentures and discounts, decline and dysfunction.” [And again, these are some things you should not do when writing about or for older people if you’re a non-profit organization.] Don’t refer to them as crones, curmudgeons, geezers, or any version of “golden.” Don’t act astounded that older people can still walk and talk [and so on].

Now, we all realize that “old” is relative, and have you found that it’s not all that easy to get people to admit to being old?

In fact, there was a Pew Research Center study of almost 3,000 Americans who were age eighteen and older. Those who responded to the survey who were under thirty said that old age begins at sixty. (Do you remember when you thought that?)

Those who were sixty-five and older said that old age begins at seventy-four. And then there was one ninety-year-old woman who said she didn’t think you were old until you were ninety-five! (laughter)So I guess it all kind of depends on your perspective!

And then, I was doing a little research this week, and I came across an article in the New York Times—it came out just in the last few days—called “The Glamorous Grandmas of Instagram.” This refers to a subversive cadre of women over sixty who prove that “old” is not what is used to be. This piece had some profiles of some of these Glamorous Grandmas.

For example, there’s one (I won’t name names here). She’s a sixty-four-year-old Instagram idol with a half-a-million Instagram followers. She said, “I flaunt it! I’m not twenty; I don’t want to be twenty, .but I’m really cool. That’s what I think about when I’m posting a photo!” And by many measurements (I looked at some photos on her Instagram account), she’d be a cool Glamorous Grandma of Instagram!

And then there’s another woman who’s a seventy-one-year-old artist and knitwear designer from Australia. She said, “We’re not going to be little, old ladies sitting in a nursing home with blue-rinsed hair. Or if we’re going to be in a nursing home, we’ll be there with our marijuana, our health foods, and our great sense of style.” So those are some of the Glamorous Grandmas of Instagram.

Now if you’re sixty—as I am about to be in a few days—you can look at some of those pictures, and you can think, Oh, I don’t know what I think about some of the lifestyle, but wouldn’t it be cool to feel like you could be cool? And you get to that stage, at least if you’re me, and you think, You know, I don’t know if I have the energy to do what it would take to be a Glamorous Grandma of Instagram!

Dr. Bernard Nash is a social worker who’s considered a pioneer in the study of aging. He points out the paradox that we all want to live longer . . . but none of us wants to grow old! And that’s true today. You see so much emphasis on . . . For me it was when I turned forty, and then when I turned fifty. They started coming in my mail and in my inbox, and just everywhere . . . all the ads.

Of course, all these devices ”know” what we’re thinking; they know what we’re saying. So they’re sending ads to us that are telling us about everything we can do to live longer, to be healthier, to be more beautiful, to do away with wrinkles and pain and weariness and all of this. Everybody wants to live longer, but nobody wants to grow old!

As I’ve been approaching this sixtieth birthday . . . I’m one who really believes in just celebrating markers of God’s faithfulness. I look for occasions to stop and reflect on the past and thank God for what He’s done and for His faithfulness. I look ahead to the future.

Of course, I don’t know what the future holds, but as I think about it, my eyes turn upward. I thank the Lord for the gift of life. We’re not guaranteed sixty years—or fifty or forty, for that matter. But what I want to do in this world that has a distinctive perspective on aging, I want to look to God’s Word, and to Christ, to get His perspective on aging.

So over the last few months, I’ve been meditating on a psalm that has become very special to me as I approach this special marker. It’s Psalm 71. Let me encourage you, if you have your Bible, or you can scroll there on your phone, to turn to Psalm 71.We’re going to take the next few days just to meditate on this passage.

And I want to say, even if sixty seems really old to you, you still need this series. You may be eighteen or twenty-eight or forty-eight or sixty-eight or eighty-eight or whatever! This is a passage that speaks (as all of God’s Word does) to all of us in our different seasons of life.

But there’s special meaning here, I think, on the whole subject of what it means to get older and some of the things we deal with, some of the challenges we face and how to see that all from God’s point of view.

I want to unpack some of the themes in this passage, and I hope it will give us some strategies and a huge, heaping dose of hope for the challenges that you either may be facing right now or that you may face in the days ahead—whatever season of life you’re in.

Now as we read this, you’ll see that this is a prayer. And what a great way to face any birthday—with prayer, with lifting our eyes up, lifting our hearts to the Lord and telling Him our needs, telling Him our challenges, and asking for His grace and wisdom to know how to face them.

We don’t know for sure who wrote this psalm. Traditionally, it’s been attributed to David, and there are many commentators who agree with that. So for the purposes of this discussion, we’re going to say (though we don’t know for sure), that perhaps this is David who wrote this prayer. It certainly sounds like many other psalms he did write.

Let me read beginning in verse 1 of Psalm 71. We won’t read the whole psalm today. We’ll unpack it over the next few days. This is the Word of the Lord.

In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame! In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me! Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.

Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man. For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother's womb. My praise is continually of you.

I have been as a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge. My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day. Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.” (vv. 1–9).

By the way, that phrase has become my prayer. I don’t have this whole psalm memorized, but that phrase . . . There just have been some wearying things in recent days, and I found myself praying, “Lord, don’t forsake me (which I know He won’t!) when my strength is spent”—when I’ve run out of strength at the end of the day.

By the way, you can be a mom with little ones and need that prayer. You don’t have to be an old lady to need that prayer: “Forsake me not when my strength is spent.”

For my enemies speak concerning me; those who watch for my life consult together and say, "God has forsaken him; pursue and seize him, for there is none to deliver him." O God, be not far from me; O my God, make haste to help me!May my accusers be put to shame and consumed; with scorn and disgrace may they be covered who seek my hurt (vv.10–13).

Now let’s just pause right there, and we’ll pick up with the rest of this psalm tomorrow, but I want to just make a few observations.

These are pretty obvious things. There are not any “aha!” moments, necessarily, but there are things that it’s good to remind ourselves of. We don’t the occasion on which this psalm was written, but here are a few things we do know, that are obvious from this passage.

First, the psalmist is getting older—maybe even old. He says in verse 9, “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.” He’s either there or he’s getting there. He can see it right around the corner. He knows he’s getting older; he knows he has all these challenges in his life, and he’s praying about old age.

We didn’t read verse 18, but in that verse he says, “Even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me.” So this is looming, maybe in the near future, maybe there on the horizon, down the road. Listen, if you’re eighteen, you can be thinking about old age. In fact, that’s a better time to start thinking about it than when you’re sixty!

It’s something I have been thinking about for many years, because I knew that I wasn’t going to wake up at sixty—or seventy or eighty—and be a godly, old lady. It doesn’t just happen! There’s intentionality from the time we’re young.

We see here a man who—from the time he was young—did lean upon the Lord, trusted in the Lord. We’re going to see how that is to his advantage when he gets to the point of old age. So walking with God is a journey from youth to old age!

Now, none of this is today as it was supposed to be before the Fall. The debilitating effects in many people’s lives of declining health, declining strength, old age, broken this, broken that, hurting this (a lot of the challenges we’re going to talk about in this series), those were not the way God planned it in the Garden of Eden.

But because of the sin of the man and woman, Adam and Eve, and passing it on to their children and their children, there are things in this world that are the overflow, that are the fallout, of a broken, sinful, fallen Creation that God is redeeming and making new. But we still experience some of the ravages of the Fall, and one of those is certainly as we move in that journey to old age.

So we see that the psalmist is getting older, and then we see that the psalmist is in distress. He’s in distress. He’s going through some really difficult trials. They haven’t abated now that he’s gotten older. In fact, it sounds to me like maybe they’re even getting worse!

Of course, some things may get easier; other things may get harder. There are a lot of normal challenges of getting older. And I realize that we have in this room a range of . . . Who’s the youngest in this room? Do we have anybody who’s in your teens? Right here, Amy. How old are you?

Amy: Seventeen.

Nancy: Seventeen? Okay, we have a couple of teenagers. I love having teens listening to these programs because these are things that you’re going to need, not just today, but for the rest of your life!

Jean just turned eighty. Is there anybody that can top that?

Woman: Eighty-one.

Nancy: Eighty-one. Okay, so we have a whole range here with most of us somewhere in-between. So anything I say as a generalization here is not going to be generally true of everybody, but there are some normal challenges of getting older.

Of course, there are health issues—physical weakness, failing strength. “My strength is spent” (Ps. 71:9). I’m finding that, even at sixty, I don’t have the strength I did at fifty. I didn’t have then the strength I did at forty.

That doesn’t mean that sixty is old. I don’t know what you call “old,” but it’s certainly older! I can see, in some ways, some declining strength. You can do certain things. There’s working out, and there are ways that you can stay stronger, but ultimately strength is going to decline.

There are health issues. I think of Corrie ten Boom who lived to be an old woman. She was the woman who was incarcerated in World War ll, and then she spent many years later in her life going around the world, telling the love of Jesus.

But the last five years of her life you don’t hear about as much. Do you know why? Because she had had a stroke, and she couldn’t talk at all for the last five years of her life. There’s a book that’s been written by one of her assistants—her caregiver at the time. It’s called The Five Silent Years.

It’s a beautiful book, by the way. I don’t know if it’s still in print. But here’s a woman who couldn’t talk at all. But when people would come in the room, they just sensed the presence of Christ, and they were ministered to, and they were blessed.

I read this years ago, and I remember thinking, Oh God, I don’t know what old age is going to hold for me, but I know there will be challenges. I know there may be physical issues. But could You somehow glorify Yourself through my life, whatever that season looks like?”

It’s not just in the physical area; there can be areas of temptation. You think it’s younger people who experience temptation, but I’ve known older people who later in their life have “fallen off the wagon.” They have given in to temptation that they never gave in to when they were younger.

I was talking with a woman today whose pastor husband—after decades of marriage—decided, “I’m not in this marriage anymore!” He walked away. And she said, “I’m starting a whole new life now.”

There are temptations that we face that sometimes get stronger as we get older. There are different kinds of attacks. I was talking with a woman who, at the time, was probably in her mid-seventies, and she’s walked with God. If I said her name, you would all know who she is. God has really used this woman in a great way in serving the Body of Christ.

But she said, “The challenges I’m facing . . .” These are not publicly known. They’re behind-the-scenes, They’re family issues. “It is harder today than ever in my life!” And she thought, as many of us have, that when she got older she could just relax, she could lean into it. She said, “This is the hardest season of my life!”

I’ve read that from others—not everyone—but others as they’ve gotten older. One of the challenges that many older people face is that of feeling devalued or unneeded or disrespected when we pay homage to youth and to fresh beauty, not mature beauty.

They can’t keep up with younger people. I don’t want to start sounding like an old lady just because I’m turning sixty, but I can see that now. There are people on our team and people I serve with who can just do things in ways that I was able to do when I was thirty. But it looks different today. That’s a challenge!

For many older people they are feeling alone, feeling abandoned. For many there are fears, insecurities, fears of financial lack, fear of, “How are my needs going to be met? How will I be provided for?”

I think, for many of us as we get older, we can be overwhelmed by change! Technology is a big area! Sometimes I want to say to these young guys who work in IT departments, “You just wait until you have to go through one more major tech change and you’re sixty years old, or fifty, and I want to see how you handle it!” (laughter)

Now, maybe they’re going to do great! Thankfully, I have those young people in my life to help me with that. But sometimes, that change is changing so fast today! Am talking like an old lady? I feel like I am! (laughter)

Here’s another challenge: it’s loss. Now, you can experience loss at any age. I lost my dad the weekend of my twenty-first birthday, so loss doesn’t just take place when you’re old, but as you get older, there’s more loss—parents, your mate perhaps, friends, even your children. There are people who will outlive their children.

There was a man in our church who died at—I think it was—106 or 107. He had two or three children who predeceased him. So enormous loss!

And then David’s experiencing additional adversity. He says in verse 4, “Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.” Verse 10: “For my enemies speak concerning me; those who watch for my life consult together.” Verse 13 talks about his accusers who seek his hurt.

Where were all these people coming from? I don’t know, but David (or the psalmist, whoever wrote this) is experiencing as he gets older people who want to sabotage his life, who want to do him in. And that doesn’t just go away as you get older.

Now, here’s another observation about this psalm: The psalmist has known and walked with God throughout his entire life. Now, not everybody in this room would have that testimony. If you don’t, that’s alright. But it’s a great joy to have known and walked with God through your entire life. This is what the psalmist says:

Verse 5: “For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth.” “I was trusting You when I was in the youth group!” Verse 6, “Upon you I have leaned [not just in the youth group, but] from before my birth.” “I was dependent on You even in the womb!” Verse 6, continued, “You are he who took me from my mother's womb.”

Verse 17: “O God, from my youth you have taught me.” So here the psalmist is recognizing that he has always been dependent on the Lord. He was dependent on God when he was young, and now that he is old he is no less dependent on that very same God who has proven Himself trustworthy and faithful through all of his life.

So in wrapping up here today, let me just point this out: A long, faithful walk with God does not spare us from hardship when we’re old. Now, you may have been thinking, I came to this program today hoping for some good news! Well, there is lots of good news in this psalm, but we need to recognize first that even if you’ve been walking with God for decades, that doesn’t mean that when you’re old you’re not going to have heartaches and hardship. In fact, some of those heartaches and heartbreaks and hardships may accelerate as God is fitting and preparing us for eternity.

We will still have problems, challenges, enemies, perhaps (God’s enemies) when we are old. So no matter how long you’ve known and walked with God, there will never be a time when you don’t need Him. Never!

There will never be a time when you’re not vulnerable to attack. Jesus said to Peter, “Satan [has] demanded to . . . sift you” (Luke 22:31). He wants to have you. If he can’t get you when you’re younger, he wants you at the end of your life to not finish well, to not glorify the Lord.

So every moment and season of our lives, we need Jesus! And every moment and season of our lives He will be faithful if we continue to lean on Him! We’ll pick back up with Psalm 71 and these meditations on getting older tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth reminding you to lean hard on Christ in every season of life. God desires to see women thriving in their later years as well as in their youth. Whether you consider yourself an older woman or a younger woman, you are a part of God’s plan to love and care for the women in your sphere.

Nancy explores this concept of women mentoring women in her book Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. The book is based on Paul’s instructions to women from Titus chapter 2. It will inspire you to make a difference in the next generation of women.

We’d like to send you a copy of Adorned for your donation of any amount. When you support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, you’re helping women of all ages to thrive in Christ. To get a copy of Adorned, give us a call at 1–800–569–5959, or ask for Adorned when you donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Tomorrow Nancy will share some advice on aging well as she continues to reflect on her approaching sixtieth birthday. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to thrive in Christ. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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