How to Age with Grace in a Culture Obsessed with Youth
By Brenda Rodgers, iBelieve.com
Friends told me that 40 is the age when a woman's body starts to change (again!). Changes like these: Fine lines deepen, skin sags, eyesight worsens, and it's harder than ever to stay thin. I still never thought it would happen to me. Then I turned 40. Everything that was predicted happened, along with something I didn't expect - for the first time I was acutely aware of my mortality. Of course, I always knew intellectually that I would die one day because everyone dies. But until I saw evidence of my body degenerating it was hard to believe that it would really happen.
There's something inside of us that pushes back against getting older. We search for anything that promises a fountain of youth. Some may even enter into a midlife crisis. I'm a mom in my 40's with young children. And I envied the young moms around me in their late 20's who would get to see their grandchildren and even great-grandchildren grow up - God willing. I became jealous of the accomplishments of younger women - women who had done more than me, faster. Age became something I resented, and I started to fight it. Maybe I'm the one who was entering a midlife crisis.
Youth is an obsession in our culture. But is God obsessed with it? When He watches a person get older, what does He think? Does He see youth in the same way we do? It's counter-cultural to view the second half of life with honor, but this is exactly how God sees it. The Bible tells us that God sees youthfulness and aging differently than we do. "Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life," (Proverbs 16:31) and "The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair" (Proverbs 20:29).
So how do we make this shift to viewing our older years with honor instead of resentment or even denial? How do we age with grace in a culture obsessed with youth? Here are five ways how:
1. Overcome Regret and Resentment
Something I struggle with as I get older is looking back at what could have been. It's easy to do this in hindsight because now you have all the information and you know the outcome of a decision. When I focus too much on the past not only do I become increasingly regretful, but I also become resentful of how other people failed me by not warning me or protecting me from decisions I made.
There's no benefit from sinking into this hole of thought. But there are many benefits of turning these feelings into a spirit of gratitude.
This is not easy to do. It takes viewing our life in a different way – in the way that God views it. He makes it clear that "in this world we will have trouble," (John 16:33). Trouble is inevitable. So what does God do with all the trouble in the world? In our lives? He uses it for His glory (Romans 8:28).
"Our past was not in vain"
In our later years, when we have more wisdom, maturity, and perspective, there's a unique opportunity to serve other people out of those gifts. We can take our experiences and use them to disciple, mentor, and counsel other people. This is an application of Titus 2 where we're told to teach younger women.
Our past was not in vain. God will bring it to completion. This should make us grateful. Our past hurt begins to have purpose and meaning, and it helps us to not focus on what's behind but how we can use it for what's ahead.
Some verses to help: Philippians 1:6 and Philippians 3:13-16.
2. Complete Our God-Given Callings
When I turned 40 I started to adopt the mentality that it was too late. I thought of new goals that I wanted to accomplish or activities I wanted to pursue, and my mind went back to, "But now I'm 40, so it's probably too late."
I know the woman who is much older than 40 is shaking her head at me as she reads this, but this became my thought process. After some time, I recognized it as a lie from the enemy.
Satan would not be happier than to get us to use our age as a reason to give up on the work God's called us to do. Think about it.
"There's a reason we're still alive"
Even though we have much potential to serve God in our younger years, how much more do we have in our older years with the gifts of wisdom, maturity, and perspective in our tool belts?
There's a reason we're still alive. God does not leave people on earth to just occupy space. Every person has a purpose. Even the elderly or disabled who are bed-ridden. They may not have a purpose by anything they are doing, but their mere presence is being used to teach those around them how to be more like Jesus - growing in patience, sacrifice, service, and compassion.
We must fight the temptation to give up.
3. See Each Day as a Gift
I've begun this practice of getting up in the morning and, before praying, writing down everything I anticipate I'll experience that day – all the places I plan to go and the people I will probably see. I also write down the names of other friends and family who come to my mind. Then I pray for my day.
I find myself praying for people I would not have thought to pray for - my girls' teachers, cashiers at stores, the neighbors, drivers on the road with me, and even people I watch on the news. This has given me a new perspective on how vital each day is in the kingdom of God.
"Every day is...an opportunity"
One of the blessings of turning 40 has been seeing life with this new appreciation. Every day is a valuable gift, and an opportunity, to pray for others, and draw people to Him. I've become more aware of how fleeting it is and how much work there is to be done.
Some verses to help: James 4:13-14, Psalm 90:12
If you are struggling to know how to pray for the needs of people around you, start with these 10 sample prayers from Amelia Rhodes: "10 Things to Help Focus Praying Over Your Community."
4. Have a Proper Perspective on Aging
Despite all the newest fads and products promising to keep us looking young, the fact is we will all get old. The Bible teaches us that aging is a blessing to embrace, not a curse to avoid.
I imagine that the reason for this is that even though we may not be able to serve God physically the way we used to, we can serve Him through the depth of our experiences with Him by passing those on to the younger generations. "So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come," (Psalm 71:18).
"There is power in the faithfulness of God over a person's lifetime"
Satan knows this. He knows that there is power in the faithfulness of God over a person's lifetime as she declares God's mighty acts to younger people. "We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done," (Psalm 78:4). Satan tries to derail us through the lies he whispers telling us we're too old, it's too late, or we're now worthless. He succeeds by getting us to focus on staying young instead of on ways to be used by God in our older years.
Aging is a gift. Nothing is greater than the wisdom of a lifetime behind you. Let's embrace it and use it to draw younger people to God.
5. Have a Proper Perspective on Death
It's natural to fear getting older. We fear sickness and not being able to take care of ourselves. We may even fear death. But Isaiah 46:4 gives us solace by saying, "I will be the same until your old age, and I will bear you up when you turn gray. I have made you, and I will carry you; I will bear and rescue you," (Isaiah 46:4, CSB).
For a believer, death is not the end (John 11:25-26). Even though it's natural to fear death, we should fight this tendency. The moment we were conceived we began living an eternal life. Heaven is just a continuation of our life here on earth.
"Begin to see all the opportunities ahead of us"
At our next birthday, let's have the attitude of rejoicing for another year. Instead of joking about how old we're getting, let's have a mental shift where we begin to see all the opportunities ahead of us to share God's faithfulness to others. And let's trust Him, that even though our bodies will decline, He is faithful to sustain us and take care of us. This is aging with grace in a culture obsessed with youth.
Brenda Rodgers considers herself a “recovering single” after years as a single woman chasing after marriage instead of chasing after Jesus. Now her passion is to mentor young women to live purposefully and grow in their relationship with God and others. Brenda has been married for five years to a heart transplant hero and is the mom of a toddler girl miracle. She is also the author of the eBook Fall for Him: 25 Challenges from a Recovering Single. You can also read more on Brenda’s blog, www.TripleBraidedLife.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.