THE TRIALS OF OLD AGE
A fifth letter to an elderly person
This is a life of trials; and who is there altogether free from them? We must expect them, and be ready to meet them when they come. Sometimes they cluster so thickly around us, that it needs a stout heart and much grace to bear them meekly, and to pass through them unhurt.
Let us talk over those which belong to old age; and perhaps we shall find ourselves all the better for saying a few words about them.
Loss of strength is a great trial to an elderly person. It is painful to feel that you cannot do many things now, which you once did so easily. To be busy and happy was once perhaps your greatest enjoyment. But now your limbs can hardly carry you; and many of the occupations of life are a burden to you.
But let this not distress you. It is your portion, and God has so ordered it. And though ‘the outer man decays’, He can strengthen you in your soul, so that the ‘inner man is renewed day by day.’
And is there not mercy in your very feebleness? For it reminds you constantly that your life is drawing to a close, whilst a voice from heaven whispers to you that ‘there remaineth a rest for the people of
God.’ In that heavenly home there will be no weakness, no
weariness, no infirmity, no sin.
Loss of memory is another great trial which generally accompanies old age. I dare say you can remember pretty well what happened years ago; but what happened yesterday you entirely forget. What you read is soon lost; it passes away like letters written on the sand. You hear a sermon, and what your minister said is all gone an hour after; even the very text is forgotten. It may be, you are sometimes vexed with yourself for this; and you even fear that God may be angry with you. But no; He is no hard master. He ‘does not reap where He has not sown.’ He is quite aware of your infirmities. He knows very well the weakness of your frame, and remembereth that you are but dust.’ He is too kind, and too just, to require of you what you cannot give Him.
Never mind then the badness of your memory. God will not call you to account for that. The great thing is to have your heart right with God. Entreat Him to cleanse and purify that by His Holy Spirit, and then all will be well.
There is a third loss which elderly people often have to mourn over, and that is the loss of friends. One after another drops off, and they find themselves left behind like a solitary tree in the wilderness. Their dearest children have perhaps been taken from them; and, it may be, a lonely widowhood for their portion. Ah, there is something sad in all this. It is sad indeed to see an aged one bereft of those who once clung to him with fond affection, and now left all alone. But, my dear friend, remember this: you will never be alone if God is your God. Christ is the Friend, the Brother, the Husband of His people. Others may forsake you; but He never will. You may reckon on His love; it will not fail you. He is with you now, and He will never leave nor forsake you. If you can say, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd;’ then you may add, “Therefore I shall not want.’
Again, elderly people often feel that they are only a trouble to others. This is a heavy trial to some. But why should it be so? It is the will of God that in infancy and old age we should look to others for help. And surely a son or a daughter ought to feel it not only a sacred duty, but also a pleasure, to supply the wants of an aged parent. And I am sure, where the heart is right, it will be done with real cheerfulness and good will.
There is one more trial which I will mention, I mean the feeling of
not being able to earn one’s own livelihood. If a person has honestly supported himself and his family during a long life, he does not like to feel that he must be beholden to others in his latter days. Perhaps this is the case with you. Perhaps you laid aside a few pounds in the days of your strength, and looked forward to maintaining yourself in your old age. But you lent your money to someone and he had made off with it; or you had a long illness, and all your savings were spent during that time: and now you are forced to depend on the kindness of others, or on the state.
Well, if such be the case, you have no cause to blame yourself, and there is no disgrace whatever in being now a pensioner on others. Instead of such a feeling, you may well be thankful that there are ways in which you can be helped in the hour of your need. Look on those who assist you as sent by your heavenly Father. He it is who graciously provides means for supplying your necessities. He raises you up friends, sometimes from the most unlikely quarters. He puts it into their hearts to help you. He is the great Fountain from which all your blessings flow.
Receive then every gift as from God. Acknowledge His hand in it;
and depend on Him from day to day for all you need. I believe that, if we thus trust God, we shall never be disappointed. We may sometimes be driven hard. There may be but a little meal in our barrel, and but a few drops of oil in our cruse; but let us remember that word which comforted Abraham of old, ‘Jehovah-jireh’ – the Lord will provide. He who feeds the ravens will feed you. He cares for His people, and will never let them want. ‘I have been young (said David), and now am old; yet I never saw the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging their bread.’
I have mentioned some of your trials. And I dare say there are many more – many which the world knows nothing about, and which none will ever know but yourself. But, however thick they fall around you, and however heavily they press upon you, you have only to carry them to God, and he will lighten your load, and make it easy to bear. Here is your remedy, and a promise with it – ‘Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain thee.’ He will not only carry your burdens, but He will carry you. He who has often laid you as a lamb in His bosom, will carry you now that you are old. He will never turn away from you, but rejoice over you to do you good. He will be with you amidst all your infirmities. He will not only bring you to Jordan, but will carry you over it, and conduct you safely into the promised land.
And then too remember that your trials are for your good. If we had none, we should be like bullocks unaccustomed to the yoke; we should have our own way too much, and never learn submission to our Father’s will. Our Lord suffered, and shall not we? It was His
daily portion when on earth: let us not wish to escape it.
As it is, we are tied and bound to this world far too much. We love it too well. And how would it be with us if we met with no trials here? We should be still less disposed than we now are to look for another resting place above.
Think too how light our trials are, compared with the Saviour’s.
His was a storm of suffering; ours but a few drops. And for how short a time do our troubles, even the severest of them, last! They are ‘but for a moment.’ In eternity, how small they will seem to us, as we look back upon them! In heaven we shall thank God for them, or we shall then see how needful they were for us!
Cheer up then, my fellow-Christian! Bear these trials of yours patiently, meekly, thankfully. Look upon them as the sick man does on the remedies that are sent to do him good. Look on them as the traveller does on the rough rocks which serve as steps to bring him to his father’s house.
Turn your trials to good account. Let them not be hindrances to you, but helps, on your way to heaven. Ask God to change them into blessings, and to make them useful to you. And just as, when Noah was in the ark, every wave that swelled only bore him higher and higher towards heaven, so may every trial raise your soul above the world, and bring you nearer and nearer to God!