Christian Biblical Counsel: AGING

Aging

Wisdom for the Winter Years

by June Hunt

i.     definitions

A. What Is Aging?

•     Aging is a process of growing physically, mentally and emotionally in order to move toward maturity.

“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature.” (James 1:4)

•     Maturity in the New Testament is translated from the Greek word teleios, which means “complete” or “growth in mental and moral character.”

“But solid food is for the mature.” (Hebrews 5:14)

•     God’s purpose in the process of aging is to bring you to spiritual maturity through deepening your faith and developing your awareness of and dependence on the abiding presence of Christ within you.

“Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13)

B. What Are the Seasons of Aging?

Springtime

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them.’ ”

(Ecclesiastes 12:1)

•     Approximate Age:

—  Young adults (ages 20–40)

•     Common Characteristics:

—  The years of seeking personal fulfillment

—  The peak years of health and energy

•     Measurement of Maturity:

—  Trust

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

•     Failure to Grow:

—  Reaps the inability to develop intimate relationships

—  Results in missing God-given opportunities in life

“The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” (Luke 8:14)

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

(Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Summer

•     Approximate Age:

—  Middle adults (ages 40–65)

•     Common Characteristics:

—  The years of investing time and effort helping others

—  The years of creativity and productivity

•     Measurement of Maturity:

—  Selflessness

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

•     Failure to Grow:

—  Reaps bondage, burnout and midlife crises

—  Results in undeveloped character

“He is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” (James 1:8)

“Stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.”

(Colossians 4:12)

Autumn

•     Approximate Age:

—  Senior adults (ages 65–80)

•     Common Characteristics:

—  The years of turning over leadership and control to others

—  The years of physical decline

•     Measurement of Maturity:

—  Acceptance

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11)

•     Failure to Grow:

—  Reaps rejection of self and others

—  Results in a heart hardened toward God

“They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” (Ephesians 4:18)

“He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age.”

(Ruth 4:15)

Winter

•     Approximate Age:

—  Elderly adults (ages 80 +)

•     Common Characteristics:

—  The years of dignity and self-respect

—  The years of receiving physical assistance from others

•     Measurement of Maturity:

—  Wisdom

“Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” (Job 12:12)

•     Failure to Grow:

—  Reaps loss of meaning or purpose to life

—  Results in facing death without hope

“So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:17)

“Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.”

(Proverbs 16:31)

 

ii.    characteristics

Moving from season to season will bring marked changes to your life. By God’s design, the budding green of spring ultimately fades to winter white. Yet, as the body ages physically, the life that is planted in Christ will blossom spiritually.

“He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.”

(Psalm 1:3)

A. Physical Wilting—Natural Body Deterioration

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them’—before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets.”

(Ecclesiastes 12:1–5)

•     Decreased coordination (trembling)

 

v. 3

 

•     Deteriorating posture (stooping)

 

v. 3

 

•     Dwindling number of teeth

 

v. 3

 

•     Dimmed eyesight

 

v. 3

 

•     Dulled hearing

 

v. 4

 

•     Difficulty sleeping

 

v. 4

 

•     Declining ability to protect

 

v. 5

 

•     Depleted hair pigment (white   blossoms meaning white hair)

 

v. 5

 

•     Drained energy

 

v. 5

 

•     Diminished sexual drive

 

v. 5

 

God’s Promise

“Therefore   we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we   are being renewed day by day.”

(2   Corinthians 4:16)

 

B. Emotional Withering—Negative Feelings and Attitudes

“My spirit is broken, my days are cut short, the grave awaits me.”

(Job 17:1)

Feelings

 

Attitudes

 

•     lonely

 

•     critical

 

•     unwanted

 

•     pessimistic

 

•     forgotten

 

•     dogmatic

 

•     helpless

 

•     negative

 

•     useless

 

•     bitter

 

•     fearful

 

•     stubborn

 

•     sad

 

•     irritable

 

•     hopeless

 

•     ungrateful

 

God’s Promise

“God   is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times,   having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

(2   Corinthians 9:8)

 

C. Spiritual Blooming—Evidence of Maturity

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

(Philippians 1:20–21)

•     A divine perspective on the seasons of aging

•     A courage that accepts change and challenge

•     A personal commitment to godly morals and values

•     An acceptance of oneself and others

•     An ability to laugh at personal mistakes

•     A desire to serve others

•     An ability to live one day at a time

•     A deepening faith and hope in the future

God’s Promise

“The   righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of   Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord,   they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in   old age, they will stay fresh and green.”

(Psalm   92:12–14)

 

 

iii.   causes of discontentment

A. Looking at Losses

Aging involves many forms of loss, and if there is an unbalanced focus on what “once was,” there is no spiritual growth. Maturity cannot bloom in the infertile soil of prolonged grief and depression. Consider the trees—they do not mourn the loss of leaf and limb, for this is God’s way to newer and greater heights.

“At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail.”

(Job 14:7)

•     loss of health

•     loss of home

•     loss of dreams

•     loss of control

•     loss of income

•     loss of independence

•     loss of loved ones

•     loss of hope

B. Root Cause

Storms invade each season of life, but negative thinking toward these winds of adversity is the root of immaturity.

Fear

•     Failure to trust God and others with honest self-disclosure results in the inability to develop mature, intimate relationships.

—  Fearful Thinking:

“If I confront him with how I really feel, he will become angry and reject me.”

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)

Rebellion

•     Disobedience toward God by seeking self-fulfillment in the false gods of greed, power and immorality destroys commitment and the desire to serve the needs of others.

—  Rebellious Thinking:

“There’s nothing wrong with getting a divorce if it means I have a chance to receive true love and happiness.”

“ ‘Only acknowledge your guilt—you have rebelled against the Lord your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 3:13)

Bitterness

•     Resentment toward God and those who have not fulfilled your expectations will grow bitter roots that destroy acceptance of yourself and others.

—  Bitter Thinking:

“My father never gave me the attention or approval I needed, and now my husband is treating me the same way.”

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15)

Pride

•     Reliance on personal effort and the belief that life can be lived successfully on your own blinds you to truth and the judgment of God.

—  Prideful Thinking:

“God was never around when I needed Him. I am the master of my own fate.”

“In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” (Psalm 10:4)

Cultivating   seeds of fear in Spring produce   selfish Summer flings, then Autumn roots of bitter taste make Winter seem a barren waste!

 

Wrong Belief:

“There is no meaning left in life. I am useless, unloved and a burden to others.”

Right Belief:

Meaning and purpose for my life comes from the indwelling presence of Christ, who is daily renewing my strength and growing His character in me.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

 

iv.  steps to solution

A. Key Verse to Memorize

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

(Isaiah 46:4)

B. Key Passage to Read and Reread

2 Corinthians 4:17–5:10

Eternal Eyesight

•     Look at life’s storms as   opportunities for eternal praise

 

v. 4:17

 

•     Focus your thoughts on the unseen   spiritual world

 

v. 4:18

 

•     See your present circumstances as   only temporary

 

v. 4:18

 

•     Understand that God is preparing a   new body for you

 

v. 5:1

 

•     Regard inner strength as your new   clothing

 

vv. 5:2–3

 

•     Recognize that this life will   always have loss and grief

 

v. 5:4

 

•     Know that aging is part of God’s   plan for your life

 

v. 5:5

 

•     Depend on God’s gift of the Holy   Spirit in you as your source of strength

 

v. 5:5

 

•     View life through the eyes of   faith

 

v. 5:7

 

•     Look forward to your eternal home   with the Lord

 

v. 5:8

 

•     Make it your goal to please God

 

v. 5:9

 

•     Remember, you will appear before   the judgment seat of Christ

 

v. 5:10

 

C. Aging Gracefully

Let Me Grow Lovely

Let me grow lovely growing old—

So many fine things do:

Laces, and ivory and gold,

And silks need not be new;

And there is healing in old tress

Old streets a glamour hold:

Why not I, as well as these

Grow lovely, growing old?

—Karle Wilson Baker

 

Accentuate the Positive

Your feelings are determined by the way you think. As you begin to guard the thoughts that come into your mind, your own attitudes concerning your circumstances will begin to change. God’s wonderful prescription for attitude control is Philippians 4:8.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Get on the Highway to Health

“Old habits die hard,” but good health often depends on developing new habits that reduce the possibility of heart trouble, stroke, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis and other diseases associated with aging.

•     Sleep seven to eight hours at night.

•     Maintain a well-balanced diet.

•     Maintain appropriate weight.

•     Get routine, medical checkups.

•     Eat a healthy, high-fiber breakfast.

•     Avoid in-between-meal snacks.

•     Exercise regularly.

“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” (3 John 2)

Initiate Involvement

God’s purpose is for you to be involved in the lives of others … and the world around you is full of many who are starved for someone who sincerely cares. Change your focus from your difficulties to being attentive to the needs of others. Genuine love is communicated by the indwelling Holy Spirit, who draws others to Christ.

•     Visit the homebound or shut-ins.

•     Learn to listen with care and compassion.

•     Be available to others with time and assistance.

•     Communicate by talking and listening.

•     Ask questions that draw others out.

“Whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” (2 Corinthians 9:6)

Notice the Roses

Give yourself permission to “slow down and smell the roses.” Overextending yourself means stress, an unnatural commodity in God’s economy. He wants you to discover the natural balance between “busyness and boredom.”

•     Limit your commitments.

•     Take time to renew lost interests.

•     Learn to relax and play.

•     Gain appreciation for the beauty in nature.

“God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

Grow in Grace

God has been extending an invitation for intimacy with Him through all the seasons of your life. His desire is for a loving, personal relationship that is based on your union with His Son Jesus Christ. Growing in grace simply means that you are growing in your awareness of the abiding presence of Christ within you. As you become increasingly aware of His presence, you are decreasingly attached to the things of this world. Loving others becomes easier, and your conflict with the will of God lessens. The losses you face as you move through the aging process become the natural bridge to a deeper relationship with God.

•     Reflect on how God has orchestrated your life.

•     Spend quality time alone with God.

•     Appreciate how God has shown His love throughout your life.

•     Listen to what God is saying to your heart.

•     Meditate on the goodness and greatness of God.

“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever!” (2 Peter 3:18)

D. Walking in Wisdom

Winter

•     The Season of Splendor

—  When the beauty and strength of spring is gone, it is sometimes difficult to accept the losses that come with life’s passing seasons. But change is also an opportunity for gain. As you treasure the memories of the past, look for the splendor of life in the present, and live for the glory of Christ in the future.

“The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.” (Proverbs 20:29)

•     Winter’s Storehouse Holds a Wealth of Wisdom

—  You have a greater understanding of the real values in life.

“He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.” (Proverbs 15:31)

•     Winter Thrives on Its Deeper Roots

—  You love on a deeper level, and your relationships are more meaningful.

“He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:8)

•     Winter Accepts Its Own Barrenness

—  You accept yourself and have more freedom to be yourself.

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

•     Winter Opens the Door to New Life

—  You are an example to others of how to live a godly life.

“In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” (Titus 2:7–8)

•     Winter Has No Fear of Death

—  You are more optimistic.

“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11)

•     Winter Knows It Is Here for Only a Season

—  You loosen your hold on the things of this world.

“Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20)

•     Winter Hears the Call to Eternal Life

—  You are beginning to rest in the knowledge of your eternal life with Christ.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27–28)

•     Winter Rests in Its Hope for the Future

—  You no longer have a fear of death.

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)

E. Caring for the Elderly

Questions and Answers

Question: “When an elderly loved one is difficult, what can I do to prevent becoming bitter?”

Answer: Practice sincere forgiveness.

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

Question “How can I handle the time demands of an elderly loved one?”

Answer: Develop a schedule, providing quality and quantity of time.

“If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)

Question: “How should I work with an elderly loved one who has become childish?”

Answer: Recognize that the roles of parent and child may become reversed.

“But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” (1 Timothy 5:4)

Question: “What should I do when elderly loved ones experience memory loss?”

Answer: Exhibit strength and bear with them.

“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak.” (Romans 15:1)

Question: “How should I treat an elderly loved one who is stubborn?”

Answer: Apply the Golden Rule.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31)

Question: “Is affection important to an elderly person?”

Answer: Everyone needs as much embracing, hugging, kissing and touching as possible.

“Greet one another with a kiss of love.” (1 Peter 5:14)

Question: “Should I insist that elderly loved ones leave their homes?”

Answer: Honor their desires to remain at home unless absolutely necessary.

“ ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise—‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’ ” (Ephesians 6:2–3)

Question: “Should I direct the decision making of elderly loved ones?”

Answer: Allow them to make their own decisions as long as possible.

“Show respect for the elderly.” (Leviticus 19:32)

Question: “What should I do to help prepare for the future?”

Answer: Secure insurance and legal advice well in advance.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)

Life   is more precious to me than ever before, and time is my most valuable   commodity. I haven’t the time to be critical, negative, unappreciative, or   bored. I don’t think in terms of “limited time.” My goal is to be in the   center of His will—on His timetable—for the future belongs to the Lord.

—Ruth   Ray Hunt, age 74

 

 

Selected Bibliography

Adams, Jay E. Wrinkled but Not Ruined: Counsel for the Elderly. Woodruff, SC: Timeless Texts, 1999.

Anderson, Don. Keep the Fire! Approaching Your Senior Years with Perspective and Passion. Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1994.

Arn, Win, and Charles Arn. Catch the Age Wave: A Handbook for Effective Ministry with Senior Adults. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.

Arn, Win, and Charles Arn. Live Long & Love It! Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1991.

Baker, Karle Wilson. “Let Me Grow Lovely.” In Dreamers on Horseback (Collected Verse), 194. Dallas: Southwestern, 1931.

Boggs, J. Robert. I’ll Move Over: Spouse and Family Stress in Dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease. Bourbon, IN: Boggs, 1994.

Brock, Raymond T. “Ministering to the Aging.” In The Holy Spirit and Counseling: Principles and Practice, edited by Marvin G. Gilbert and Raymond T. Brock, 118–33. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1985.

Brown, Paul Fremont. From Here to Retirement. Waco, TX: Word, 1988.

Deane, Barbara. Getting Ready for a Great Retirement: A Planning Guide. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1992.

Elliott, Elisabeth. Forget Me Not: Loving God’s Aging Children. Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1989.

Fowler, Ruth. As We Grow Old: How Adult Children and Their Parents Can Face Aging with Candor and Grace. Valley Forge, PA: Judson, 1998.

Gilmore, John. Too Young to Be Old: Secrets from Bible Seniors on How to Live Long and Well. Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw, 1992.

Hickman, Martha Whitmore. Fullness of Time: Short Stories of Women and Aging. Nashville: Upper Room, 1990.

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008

Jensen, Maxine Dowd. “Old” Is Older Than Me. San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life, 1991.

Jeremiah, David. Overcoming Loneliness. Revised ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991.

Manning, Doug. When Love Gets Tough: The Nursing Home Dilemma. Expanded ed. Grand Rapids: Harper & Row, 1990.

Minirth, Frank, John Reed, and Paul Meier. Beating the Clock: A Guide for Maturing Successfully. Richardson, TX: Today, 1985.

Moore, Pat, and Charles Paul Conn. Disguised. Waco, TX: Word, 1985.

Palms, Roger. Celebrate Life After 50. Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1995.

Sanders, Al. I’m Trying to Number My Days, But I Keep Losing Count! Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook, 1998.

Sanders, J. Oswald. Enjoying Your Best Years. Grand Rapids: Discovery House, 1993.

Sanford, Doris. Maria’s Grandma Gets Mixed Up. Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1989.

Sapp, Stephen. Full of Years: Aging and the Elderly in the Bible and Today. Nashville: Abingdon, 1987.

Small, Dwight Hervey. Letting Go and Moving On: Easing Retirement for Professional Men and Their Wives. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.

Stafford, Tim. As Our Years Increase: Loving, Caring, Preparing: A Guide. Grand Rapids: Pyranee, 1989.[1]

 


[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Aging: Wisdom for the Winter Years (1–15). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

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