Last month, my extended family and I sat with my dying grandmother over her final days. In the waning hours of her life, we reflected on the various blessings the Lord gives by allowing saints to live long lives. Growing old is really hard, but there are unique benefits that come to the friends and family of those who age well in Jesus Christ. Here are a few of the blessings we counted together:
Saints who live long lives on earth connect us to our past. Within an hour of my grandmother’s passing, someone asked a question to which no one remembered the answer, and then someone said “If Grandma were here, she would have known.” Old people recount facts, stories, and connections of old. When a life ends, a book of knowledge closes that cannot be reopened on earth. Elderly believers possess a knowledge and experience of God’s past work that informs our view of history as they recount the faithfulness of God. By connecting us to our past, they teach us who we are.
Saints who live long lives on earth connect us in the present. Patriarchs and matriarchs hold families together. They bind their own descendants and the families of their siblings and cousins in a way no one else can. In some cases, they bind whole communities with warmth and love. Fractured and disconnected communities are more prone to difficulties of all kinds. Old people help hold us together.
Saints who live long lives on earth speak wisdom into our lives and encourage us. Elderly people who know Jesus are excited to see the next generations walking in the truth. They inspire us with their stories, speak helpful exhortations and warnings, and they offer words of wisdom.
Saints who live long lives on earth show us how to grow old with grace and persevere in faith unto death. Unless Jesus returns or we die young, all of us will grow old. The Lord gives us examples to show us the way. How do we endure through pain? How do we navigate the loss of close friends? How do we continue to serve even as our bodies give way? Praise God for those who boldly go before us advancing still from strength to strength.
Saints who live long lives on earth pray for us. My grandmother routinely ended our phone call with, “I’m praying for you, boy!” Since her death, those are the words I miss hearing most because she did pray for me even in the particulars of my life and ministry. Dr. Roy Blackwood recently passed into glory at age 94. When I would visit him, we would conclude with prayer, and after I would pray for him, he would immediately begin, “Lord, now we pray that you would command your blessing on James…” Through those prayers the Lord has sustained me and has commanded his blessing on me.
Psalm 92 says of these brothers and sisters, “when old, they’ll still bear fruit and flourish fresh and green.” I’m thankful for the blessing of such fathers and mothers in the faith in my own life. I pray the Lord will let me live to serve him in the same kind of way, gradually, of course.