Fulfilled living in later life
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Living with purpose in older age

God has a purpose and a plan for you at every stage of your life

Reflecting on how God had planned his life before he was born, King David wrote in Psalm 139:16 that, “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before there was one of them.”

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” There is no ‘use-by’ date. God has a plan for your life and at each stage He has different things for you to do.

God has so designed life that the longer people live the more they learn through experience and the more wisdom they accumulate. “Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old,” observed Job (Job 12:12), and eminent Christian psychologist James Hillman wrote "...let us entertain the idea that character requires the additional years and that the long last of life is forced upon us neither by genes nor by conservational medicine nor by societal collusion. The last years conform and fulfil character.”

Solomon had been given extraordinary wisdom by God (1 Kings 4:29), yet he sought the expertise of older men who helped him make important decisions about the kingdom of Israel. Our latter years are designed to give us the qualities, the wisdom, and the character that can help others, and our increasing lifespan is giving us even more time and opportunities for doing it.

The changing view of old age

We’re having to adjust to a new way of thinking about old age. We are used to seeing life in three stages, from infancy to late adulthood and retirement, but now longevity adds two new significant stages: those 80-plus years where we are still largely active and involved, and the final few years before we are called Home.

But they can also bring challenges. Famous Christian leaders Billy Graham and John Stott both said that they had been taught about death but not about how to be old. Psychologists say there are two main reasons for this: one is that we have no experience of our own old age so can’t ‘see’ ourselves as old, and the other is that many of us push the notion of old age away from us because we have absorbed negative views about it. But the Scriptures tell us that that God intends it to be a time of blessing others and telling of His goodness.

An example of this flowering and growth was a lady called Jean who, at the age of 96 came to live in a flat in our Pilgrims’ Friend Society housing in Yorkshire, Royd Court. She was frail and confined to a wheelchair, but she loved Jesus, and she loved people, and her flat was rarely empty. At the age of 100, when it looked that she was dying, the District Nurse came to discuss end-of-life medications with her. Jean asked her, “Tell me dear, do you know where you are going when you die?” Then she continued, “I know where I’m going – I’m going to live with Jesus. You do need to know. Go to a good church and find out about it!”

Jean is just one example of how God has a plan and a purpose for us for the whole of our life, including those latter years.

Points to ponder:

  • Thinking of Ephesians 2:10, write down the talents God has given you. Perhaps you are good at gardening, or cooking, or at encouraging others. Take time and don’t be shy! These are God given gifts to be blessed by. A 96-year-old told me recently that her gift was talking to others - yours might be listening!
  • Write down the things you would like to do in your older age. It could be joining a local voluntary work, such as helping children to learn to read, or visiting a care home to encourage those living there.