“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
Very few advertisements tout the benefits of growing old. In fact, an outsider studying our culture would surmise (perhaps accurately) that we are deathly afraid of growing old or, even worse, afraid of looking old. We have potions and lotions to hide wrinkles and remove spots. We have drugstores full of pills to help us feel young again, and the shelves are stocked with anti-aging creams and shampoos and rinses to fire up the follicle growth and restore our hair to its “natural” color. Plastic surgeons make a fortune attempting to, temporarily at least, keep the inevitable at bay with a nip here and a tuck there.
But it’s a losing battle. We are, on a daily basis, growing steadily older, and the creaks in our knees and the cricks in our neck don’t let us forget it. But for the follower of Jesus, that’s not bad news!
I was powerfully reminded of this recently while reading some thoughts from a professor at Cedarville University. In an article entitled, “Thank God for Aging” written for Torch Magazine, Cedarville’s campus publication, Chuck Dolph makes a powerful case for the reality that growing old effectively strips us of the distractions that rob our intimacy with God. “If we live long enough, we will lose our beauty, our strength, our wealth, our independence, the control of our bodily functions, our pride, and perhaps our very self,” Dolph writes. “These are our idols, all the things that we trust in life to make us attractive, valuable, and self-sufficient.”
That sounds an awful lot like the heart of Paul. He doesn’t sugarcoat the harsh realities of his existence as a follower of Christ. From a human standpoint it’s been a tough road: “hard pressed on every side . . . persecuted . . . struck down” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). But he doesn’t stop there. Note how he completes each one of those phrases with a note of victory: “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; . . . persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Paul goes on to say in 2 Cor. 4:17 that these “light and momentary trials are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
The simple reality for Paul was that, “though outwardly we are wasting away,” his physical demise was not to be compared to the fact that “inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). What a great truth! If God is our focus, even though we’re getting older, we can continue to get better on the inside where it counts!
Whether you feel it today or not, you’re wasting away. But that’s not a bad thing. Viewed through the right lens, you could see yourself as day by day growing more wonderfully dependent on the grace and strength of God. Your bent toward self-reliance and pride can be replaced with dependence and humility as you learn—perhaps out of necessity—to trust Him more and more.
In his article’s conclusion, Professor Dolph writes, “If our aging is successful, we will end our lives stripped of everything but God . . . utterly dependent on Him and the love of others.”
I don’t look forward to aches and pains and the loss of what’s left of my mind, but with Paul’s mindset, I can look forward to being more alive inside than ever before in my relationship with God. And as far as aging goes, that’s about as grace-full as it gets!
- What circumstances in your life make you aware of your own mortality and the fact that you are aging?
- What has been your attitude about growing old? How does that match up with what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4: 1-18?
- How is your attitude today shaped by viewing aging as an opportunity to depend more on God’s grace and the love of others?