The summer sun beckons me outdoors for a hike. But my knees won’t cooperate. Grr! Dead branches on our cedars need trimming. But I’m warned not to climb ladders. But I don’t feel old inside! And yet reality has begun to seriously limit both Mary Helen’s and my activities. It’s frustrating. As I think about it, I realize that it’s all about losing control.
Ever since Satan whispered to Adam and Eve that they would be like God, autonomous and knowing all things, we have all faced control issues. We innately want to be in control of our daily life, our destiny, and especially our bodies. Our body is our own, after all. One of the main things many people hate about the biblical revelation of our infinite, self-sufficient, sovereign God; He doesn’t need us but we need Him and He rules the universe.
Through much of life, the vibrancy of a person’s health may enable him to ignore God. But aging brings us face to face with actuality. We are not sovereign, only God is. Instead of being in control of our running and jumping and sleeping—all of our activities—our aging bodies limit us. And it aggravates us.
Observation should have told us, even when we were young, that life is beyond our control. We can’t change the weather. We can’t avoid accidents. Six weeks ago Mary Helen suffered a concussion due to a freak happening. We can’t predict the stock market. We don’t know what our health will be like tomorrow. We can’t change our DNA.
Now it is true that modern societies have been able to engineer relatively safe and healthy environments. And yet there remains an enormous unpredictability to life. Mature people realize this and plan for the unexpected. Most, however, still rail against circumstances and buy lottery tickets in the vain hope that their ship will come in.
I think I understand. In spite of being a Christian for over 60 years, it seems like I haven’t yet learned, like the Apostle Paul, to be content in all circumstances. What circumstances he endured! Five times he received 39 lashes. He was stoned, beaten 3 times with rods, shipwrecked three times. He endured imprisonments, riots, sleepless nights and hunger. He wrote from prison, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want”(Phil. 4:11-12). What was the secret? A verse I’ve claimed throughout the years, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength”(Phil. 4:13).
Surely if Paul, under such dire and changing circumstances, could feel content, we ought to accept our lot with equanimity—especially the inevitability of aging. The secret, of course, is looking to our divine Shepherd, remembering that He said, “And surely I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20).
And so, whether young or older, let’s pray, Lord help me to accept what I cannot change without grumbling and griping and self-pity.