THE TEMPTATIONS OF OLD AGE
A Fourth Letter to an elderly person
Saturn tempts every one of us. Who is there that has not felt his power? And, how craftily he applies his temptations! He suits them exactly to our stations and ages. He has some temptations for the rich, for the poor; some for the young, and others for the old. He knows our weak points, and there he assaults us.
So you must not be surprised if you have your temptations, and perhaps sore ones too. You may be one of God’s dearest children,
and yet be tempted. Was not Joseph tempted, and David, and Paul? And was not even Jesus, the sinless Saviour, tempted by Satan?
Neither, again, be angry with yourself because you are thus tried. It is no sin to be tempted. It is only when we give way to temptation, instead of resisting it, that God is angry with us. It is the falling into sin that grieves and offends Him. When you find yourself tempted to any wrong feeling, or to do anything sinful, I will tell you how to act. Don’t give yourself up to the temptation, but strive resolutely against it. And, as you have but little strength of your own, fly to God for help. Turn at once to Him. Satan is strong but there is a Stronger One than he. Jesus knows both Satan’s power and your weakness; and, as “He himself has suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” In Christ you are safe, and nowhere else. He can throw His shelter around you, and protect you from all harm.
But let us see what kinds of temptation belong especially to those who are elderly.
A deadness and dullness of soul is very apt to come over an elderly person. Your feelings are not so lively and strong as they once were. your affections are somewhat blunted. There was a time when a powerful sermon or a striking book moved you, and the tear started in your eye. The Love of Jesus made your heart to glow. But perhaps this warmth and tenderness of spirit is in measure gone.
Now, you have need to be on your guard on this point. Take care that you do not settle down to a cold and easy frame of mind. Take care that your faith does not wither, and your love grow dull. It will do so, if you are not very watchful. Pray constantly that God may touch your heart, and give life to it. Especially pray that you may have a bright view of that gracious Saviour, who has done so much for you.
Very often, too, elderly people give way to a peevish and irritable temper. They allow little things to ruffle them and put them out. This is wrong, and it very much interferes with their happiness.
When you yourself have indulged in this spirit, what has been the consequence? Why, you have felt thoroughly uncomfortable afterwards, and you have wished that you had more command over yourself.
Watch against it then. I know that it is one of the temptations to which old age is especially liable. But God can strengthen you against it. He can enable you to overcome it, instead of its overcoming you. He can give you a happy, contented, peaceful frame of mind, and enable you to take all the little roughnesses of life with calmness and evenness of temper. Thus will your latter days be happy, instead of miserable; and you will enjoy a peace within, which nothing can rob you of.
Again, there is such a thing as weariness of life, which it is very wrong to encourage. At the end of sixty or seventy years, a person often feels a little tired of this world. He is weary of its trials. He has tasted its disappointments. He wishes to get away from them. A suffering body too perhaps weighs him down. And he is ready to cry out with David, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove; then would I fly away, and be at rest.”
But this is not a right wish. We ought cheerfully to bear all that our heavenly Father sees it good for us to bear. Even our greatest sufferings should be willingly endured for His sake. Christ could say in the very midst of His agony, “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” Elijah was wrong when he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “Now, O Lord, take away my life.” Jonah too was wrong when he exclaimed, “It is better for me to die than to live.” There was a good deal of discontent in their minds, when they made such a request. It was in a moment of disappointment and distrust that they breathed this prayer.
How different were Paul’s feelings, when he expressed a “desire to depart.” It was not because he was tired of life – or because he was discontented with the lot which God had appointed for Him. No; he desired to depart for a very different reason. It was because he wished to be with Christ. He loved his Saviour, and longed to be in His presence.
May God give us the same holy longing! And may we at the same time be content to remain here just so long as He in His wisdom and love sees fit!
My dear friend, you see there are certain temptations to which in your old age you are especially liable. I have mentioned three -namely, deadness of soul, peevishness, and unwillingness to bear the sufferings of this life. But there are others which I have not noticed. Now, look well into your heart, and think what is the temptation to which you are most inclined to yield. And then ask God to set you free from it, and to strengthen you by putting His Holy Spirit within your heart. That was a comforting word which our Lord spoke to Peter, “Satan hath desired to have you, and sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not.”
Satan is a mighty tempter; but you have also an almighty Protector. Rest in His promise; trust in His strength; and no power on earth or in hell can ever harm you.