As our population ages, many of us have elderly parents to care for. Some of them still may not know Jesus. We need to do what we can to share the gospel with these dear ones before their fate is forever sealed. I believe that, even where dementia is involved, God can provide a moment of clarity and give people the opportunity to respond to the gospel. The Bible tells us God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). We need to rest in that promise and do all we can to show these elderly loved ones the love of Christ.
Today, my longtime friend and fellow author Nancy Parker Brummett is our guest blogger. Her work with the elderly has given her valuable insights to share with us.
Aging Well with the Hope of Glory
A sociology textbook from the 1980s described aging as “a senseless slipping into nothingness.” As chilling as that definition is, it’s true for many in our aging population.
When I go into any care facility, I soon realize which of the residents I pass in the hall are still alive in a spiritual sense, and which have abandoned all hope and are waiting to slip into nothingness.
The Difference a Relationship with Jesus Makes
Those who know the Lord and know that He knows and sees them, have a light in their eyes the others don’t possess. They often have a smile on their face for all they meet, and a figurative, if not literal, bounce intheir step. They are living out Colossians 1:27: Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Those without hope stare blankly from lifeless eyes, and seem to wish they were anywhere but where they are. Living a life of faith makes a difference in older adults in several key ways:
- First, a difference in attitude: Elders with the hope of glory know they are only passing through this world on the way to heaven. Rather than being surprised that they are so old, they realize old age is a privilege not granted to everyone, and so they deal with the changes and the loss, the aches and the pains, with a sense of humor and a positive outlook—knowing each day brings them closer to their one true home in heaven.
- Second, a difference in processing grief: Certainly even believers grieve, but we don’t have to grieve like those who have no hope as it says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13. In classes where I volunteer, I’ve heard older people share experiences of loss and grief that truly take my breath away. Yet they survived. They not only survived, they allowed their grief to become “good grief” as it left them more dependent than ever on God and His saving grace. Aging well will always include learning how to grieve well. One simply can’t do that without faith.
- Third, a difference in facing temptations: I wrote a lesson for The Hope of Glory titled “Temptations Never Cease.” As I left for the class where I would share it, I questioned my choice of subject matter. Surely, I thought, people this age don’t still grapple with temptation. I was wrong. That morning we had the liveliest discussion ever, as one resident after another talked about the temptation to worry, to stay stuck in a routine, or to grumble about everything from the weather to the cold coffee at breakfast. Many temptations accompany aging, and they can only be overcome through the power of the Holy Spirit that indwells those with faith in Jesus Christ.
- Fourth, a difference in the ability to forgive: As we age, it’s possible to accumulate a long list of grudges, regrets, and even sins. Holding on to any of these things, without forgiving ourselves and others, impedes our ability to age gracefully and well. Older adults with faith have learned to depend on God’s promises from the Bible, and to accept that we are to forgive ourselves and others as He has forgiven us. A spirit of forgiveness is especially beautiful shining from old eyes.
All of us have experienced the feeling of invisibility. That no one sees us. No one cares. The opportunities for feeling invisible increase tenfold as we age. None of us wants to see the elders we love slipping into nothingness. Rather, we want to fill them with the sense of holy purpose God has for them. To gather them together to share in relationship with one another, to laugh, and to hug. To help them choose life as long as they are living—to choose joy over sorrow—and the hope of glory over hopelessness. With God’s help, we can encourage them to live out the remainder of their days with a sustaining, life-giving faith.
Nancy Parker Brummett is an author who now focuses her writing and speaking ministries on her passion for older adults and those who care for them. Her latest book, The Hope of Glory: A Devotional Guide for Older Adults, contains 57 lessons designed for seniors 65 and older, group classes in care facilities and churches, or for meaningful one-to-one visits with older adults. It is available from Amazon.com. To learn more about Nancy’s life and work, visit www.nancyparkerbrummett.com.
The Giver: An intriguing, haunting reminder of the indomitable human spirit — and of freedoms that could so easily be lost.
My husband and I saw The Giver earlier this week, and we agree that this film from Walden Media and The Weinstein Company is an excellently done, entertaining movie. The story is based on the book The Giver, a bestselling, Newberry award-winning, dystopian novel by Lois Lowry.
I have not read the book, so I entered into the story as someone knowing nothing about it, other than what appeared in the movie trailer. The story tells about a controlled society where everyone must conform in every way or be “released” (killed). Members of The Community take a daily dose of drugs to prevent negative emotions and help keep peace. Only one person, the Giver (Jeff Bridges), remembers how life was in the past. He must now pass on this wisdom to the chosen Receiver, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites). But as Jonas learns the truth about life, love, and the past, he must find the courage to make a life-or-death choice that will affect himself and everyone he loves.
I found the movie intriguing, and the questions it raised have haunted me all week. The Giver should provide a great catalyst for you to discuss important topics relating to life and faith with your teens and mature pre-teens.
- How much do we value the freedoms we have, especially the simple, everyday ones we take for granted – like choosing what to eat, what to wear, and even what to think?
- How much control should the leaders of a society or government be allowed to exercise over the people under them? How far can they actually go before it’s too late and freedom is lost?
- We’ve seen how insidious man’s inhumanity to man can be – for example, through Stalin, Hitler, and currently ISIS. What is the proper response from a civilized people? What should be the response from those of us who belong to Jesus Christ?
- When is war justifiable?
- Is a society like The Community even possible? Wouldn’t we still see man’s inherent sinful nature manifest itself in every individual?
- What would compel us to risk or even give up our lives for another?
- Which freedoms are most valuable, worth risking everything for?
In the movie, the leader of the Community (Meryl Streep) states, “When people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong.” Yet as we see in Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), people often choose to do right. There is a quality in the human spirit – I believe it is the Imago Dei* – that makes us long for truth, justice, and love. This indomitable spirit often leads to acts of heroism, including the giving of one’s life for another. The display of this spirit through Jonas’s character is probably the best part of the film.
Be aware that this is not a Christian film, and yet Christian messages can be gleaned from the story. When The Giver depicts religion, it shows various religions and forms of worship. This may raise questions in your children’s minds about other faiths. Take this opportunity to discuss different belief systems with your children from a biblical perspective. Arm your children and grandchildren with the truth. Do it before they become intrigued with ideas that have an exotic appeal but lead only to spiritual blindness. A blindness as insidious as the black-and-white world portrayed in The Giver.
I recommend this movie. It’s good entertainment and provides ample opportunity for discussion. Apply biblical truth, and it’s a win-win.
*Latin for “image of God.” This refers to the fact that God created humans, both male and female, in His own image (Genesis 1:27). Thus, all humans have intrinsic value imparted by God, whatever their abilities, disabilities, functions, skin color, age, development, intelligence, social standing, gender, etc.
Jeanne Gowen Dennis