Men and Maturity: The Traumas and Triumphs of Aging
Posted by March 8, 2012on
Are old men destined to be grumpy? What did God want us to learn from the aging process?
If we men live out our natural lives, one thing is sure—we’ll get old. It’s 100 percent certain.
Bible heroes weren’t exempt from the traumas of aging
Isaac, at perhaps the age of 137, was blind, and he lived to the age of 180 in that condition (Genesis 27:1-2; 35:27-29). Jacob, near death at the age of 147, was also blind (Genesis 47:28; 48:1-2, 10, 21; 49:33).
King David, at about 70 years of age, was described as “advanced in years” and wasn’t able to stay warm (1 Kings 1:1). His 80-year-old friend Barzillai could no longer taste his food or drink and had diminished hearing (2 Samuel 19:34-35).
Such health difficulties shouldn’t be dismissed as of little consequence. They are a trial of life. But aging is part of God’s plan.
What does God intend men to learn by getting old?
We can respond to aging effects with lighthearted banter: “When I bend down to tie up my shoes, I look around to see what else can be done while I’m down there.” Or, “These days my back goes out more than I do.”
It is important to keep a positive, humorous outlook on aging because God designed the process.
Aging should bring a maturity from experience. In digesting life, we learn from facing conditions such as the loss of physique, health, career or income. And we learn grief through the death of family members and loved ones.
Aging means absorbing the wounds of life. Some heal; some scar. Many men come to see they’re not going to reach all their goals and dreams. Instead, they accept their place on the career ladder as far enough.
They also no longer feel they must protect some inflexible opinion (of course, unless it is a belief central to their faith). The aged are practiced. They know what worked for them in life. There can be an interest in developing skills and spending more time with friends and family. There may be a desire to feel young, but not to be young again.
Mature—not grumpy—old men
Older men can become more comfortable with themselves and their wives. Mature men show more affection and value the part their wives have played in their family. Looking back on child rearing, many men realize that much of the teaching and nurturing should be attributed to their wives, admitting that they were too busy making a living. Maturity means composure, which can mean a lessening of the extremes of exuberance and depression.
The mind doesn’t automatically deteriorate. Research tells us the aged mind doesn’t always grow fuzzy, unless through illness. Older people become dull through inactivity and boredom, not through a loss of neurons. One thing that usually declines a little is speed of response. We don’t run out of memory, but recall slows down. Many people can’t always instantly recall names until some time later.
The benefits of regular exercise
Men in their 70s and 80s can still build muscle by “pumping iron,” after advice from their physician. With prolonged idleness, muscles become weak, joints stiffen, bones become brittle and physical coordination declines.
A study on aging showed how a class of 70-year-old men, after a year’s exercise program, ended up with bodily reactions of men 30 years younger. And Senior Games are testimony to people who, late in life, still actively pursue athletic and sporting competition.
This human life teaches us we cannot save ourselves. We need a Savior. We need to deeply desire what God has to offer—eternal life.
From middle age on, there is a growing realization about what Psalm 90 says: “So teach us to number our days” (verse 12). Seniors think not in terms of years still ahead, but what time is left to live. With that comes an appreciation of the need to make every day count.
There can be a keen desire to know God’s Word, the Bible, and discover its treasures before it is too late: “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law” (Psalm 119:18).
The autumn of life brings mellowing
Old age should be a time that turns out better than we expected. Yet doesn’t old age seem contradictory? Just when we think we’ve finally gained the competence to properly handle marriage, family and people relationships, we now may not have the health or energy to do so!
Yet our aging experience is a preparatory stage for entering the Kingdom of God. It’s why the apostle Paul could say, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. … I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you” (Philippians 1:21, 23-24).
Old age brings the hope of a grand new beginning. That is God’s purpose for this temporary life—to prepare us for an incredibly better one!
Graemme Marshall has served the Church of God in both Australasia and Canada. He loves the Canadian wilderness and currently pastors the Toronto, Ontario, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association.
For more about aging and the life beyond this one, see: