As our population ages, many of us have elderly parents to care for. Some of them still may not know Jesus. We need to do what we can to share the gospel with these dear ones before their fate is forever sealed. I believe that, even where dementia is involved, God can provide a moment of clarity and give people the opportunity to respond to the gospel. The Bible tells us God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). We need to rest in that promise and do all we can to show these elderly loved ones the love of Christ.
Today, my longtime friend and fellow author Nancy Parker Brummett is our guest blogger. Her work with the elderly has given her valuable insights to share with us.
Aging Well with the Hope of Glory
A sociology textbook from the 1980s described aging as “a senseless slipping into nothingness.” As chilling as that definition is, it’s true for many in our aging population.
When I go into any care facility, I soon realize which of the residents I pass in the hall are still alive in a spiritual sense, and which have abandoned all hope and are waiting to slip into nothingness.
The Difference a Relationship with Jesus Makes
Those who know the Lord and know that He knows and sees them, have a light in their eyes the others don’t possess. They often have a smile on their face for all they meet, and a figurative, if not literal, bounce intheir step. They are living out Colossians 1:27: Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Those without hope stare blankly from lifeless eyes, and seem to wish they were anywhere but where they are. Living a life of faith makes a difference in older adults in several key ways:
- First, a difference in attitude: Elders with the hope of glory know they are only passing through this world on the way to heaven. Rather than being surprised that they are so old, they realize old age is a privilege not granted to everyone, and so they deal with the changes and the loss, the aches and the pains, with a sense of humor and a positive outlook—knowing each day brings them closer to their one true home in heaven.
- Second, a difference in processing grief: Certainly even believers grieve, but we don’t have to grieve like those who have no hope as it says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13. In classes where I volunteer, I’ve heard older people share experiences of loss and grief that truly take my breath away. Yet they survived. They not only survived, they allowed their grief to become “good grief” as it left them more dependent than ever on God and His saving grace. Aging well will always include learning how to grieve well. One simply can’t do that without faith.
- Third, a difference in facing temptations: I wrote a lesson for The Hope of Glory titled “Temptations Never Cease.” As I left for the class where I would share it, I questioned my choice of subject matter. Surely, I thought, people this age don’t still grapple with temptation. I was wrong. That morning we had the liveliest discussion ever, as one resident after another talked about the temptation to worry, to stay stuck in a routine, or to grumble about everything from the weather to the cold coffee at breakfast. Many temptations accompany aging, and they can only be overcome through the power of the Holy Spirit that indwells those with faith in Jesus Christ.
- Fourth, a difference in the ability to forgive: As we age, it’s possible to accumulate a long list of grudges, regrets, and even sins. Holding on to any of these things, without forgiving ourselves and others, impedes our ability to age gracefully and well. Older adults with faith have learned to depend on God’s promises from the Bible, and to accept that we are to forgive ourselves and others as He has forgiven us. A spirit of forgiveness is especially beautiful shining from old eyes.
All of us have experienced the feeling of invisibility. That no one sees us. No one cares. The opportunities for feeling invisible increase tenfold as we age. None of us wants to see the elders we love slipping into nothingness. Rather, we want to fill them with the sense of holy purpose God has for them. To gather them together to share in relationship with one another, to laugh, and to hug. To help them choose life as long as they are living—to choose joy over sorrow—and the hope of glory over hopelessness. With God’s help, we can encourage them to live out the remainder of their days with a sustaining, life-giving faith.
Nancy Parker Brummett is an author who now focuses her writing and speaking ministries on her passion for older adults and those who care for them. Her latest book, The Hope of Glory: A Devotional Guide for Older Adults, contains 57 lessons designed for seniors 65 and older, group classes in care facilities and churches, or for meaningful one-to-one visits with older adults. It is available from Amazon.com. To learn more about Nancy’s life and work, visit www.nancyparkerbrummett.com.
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