The man, once tall and strong, amazingly gifted to build, fix, and create, is now weakened by age. As I visited with him, he was frail, barely able to stand, not always following the conversation. “It’s pathetic,” he said, half questioning and half making a statement. “No,” I insisted, “it is an opportunity for love.” And indeed it is! To be pathetic means “to awaken pity,” but in this elderly man’s weakness, I find no occasion for pity, only compassion. All those ways that he invested himself in doing for others, in making life a little better and brighter for the people in his family and church, now pay dividends of kindness and concern. I was sobered by the visit as I considered the inevitable march of time and aging.
King Solomon, after a life full of accomplishment and indulgence, gave us the book of Ecclesiastes. He does not call himself pathetic, but he rails at the emptiness of his riches and pleasure. In that famed phrase he rants, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!” Solomon’s experience of age was not one rich in love. He raged against his growing weaknesses. “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, NIV)
His counsel to the young is not drawn from a joyful place but rather from a well of regret. It is, nevertheless, worthy of our attention.
“Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator.
Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.”
Remember him before the light of the sun, moon, and stars is dim to your old eyes, and rain clouds continually darken your sky. Remember him before your legs—the guards of your house—start to tremble; and before your shoulders—the strong men—stoop. Remember him before your teeth—your few remaining servants—stop grinding; and before your eyes—the women looking through the windows—see dimly. Remember him before the door to life’s opportunities is closed and the sound of work fades.
… But, my child, let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out. That’s the whole story.
Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1-14, NLT)
Regret or reward, what will it be for you in years ahead? Today’s choices do matter. Living well is a matter of daily, ordinary decisions to remember God, to honor Him, and to love others. Will you? “Time and tide waits for no man” Chaucer says. That is seen as a grim fact by some. For those who live in the will of the Father today and with their eternal home never out of sight, time’s passing is the inevitable advance to the realization of the destiny prepared for those who have faith in Christ Jesus.
Here is a word from the Word. May the wisdom find a place in our minds and hearts to keep us from Solomon’s vanity, giving us reason to age with grace.
“Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives. ” (1 Peter 2:11-12, The Message)
“It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.” (1 Peter 2:15-17, The Message)
Lord, lead us to life that is truly living.
Preserve us from the folly of short-term pursuits that ignore eternal realities.
May this day find us loving You and others.
Jesus, be honored in our thoughts, our words, and our actions.
May we come to the evening with joy, not with regret.