Psalm 71 – Grow Old with the Lord!
Getting old is not for sissies, the residents of my mom’s retirement community told me on numerous occasions, quoting Bette Davis. The writer of Psalm 71 knows something about this.
The author of Psalm 71 is an old man. His hair is gray, “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me.” (18a) He has known trials throughout his life but God has been present. “For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from my birth, you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.” (5-6) “You who made me see many sore troubles will revive me again.” (20a)
His enemies have surrounded him for one final attack now that he is old and frail. “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent. For my enemies speak concerning me, those who watch for my life consult together, and say, ‘God has forsaken him; pursue and seize him, for there is none to deliver him.’” (9-11) They interpret his age and weakening health as a sign of God’s disfavor.
It’s interesting that the writer’s enemies would say that God has forsaken him as he aged. A long life was considered a sign of blessing by God. But apparently even back then, the elderly weren’t always respected. I also find it interesting that out of 150 Psalms, there are only two that deal with aging, Psalm 71 and Psalm 90. Perhaps because there weren’t as many old people in Biblical times as there are now. If the Psalms were written today, I expect there would have been more related to being old. One could easily write 150 Psalms on this topic itself!
How to Deal with Aging
How does the writer of Psalm 71 deal with growing old? He remembers how God has been with him throughout his whole life, even from his mother’s womb (6). The writer remains steadfast in his belief in God, his rock, “Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.”(3) He ends with a hymn of praise, “I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God. I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel.” (22)
It’s not easy to deal with the multiple losses that are part of the aging process. It takes courage to face the inevitable with grace rather than feeling sorry and complaining. It can be easy to feel that we are being punished with long life, rather than blessed! As the song reminds us, “Only the good die young.” If that’s the case, I guess I’ll be around for a while.
Words of Hope from Isaiah
Isaiah tells us: “But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (40:31) Words of hope to a weary people.
As I face the inevitable there are examples around me of how to manage the later years in life with dignity and grace, including the writer of Psalm 71. Amidst all of his problems he continues to sing songs of praise to our God.
So bring on old age. After all, consider the alternative.
What about you? Who are the models of aging with grace in your life? How do you deal with the aches and pains that come with growing old? I would love to hear from you!
This post is part of a series of blog posts on the Psalms. Sign up to follow this blog and receive a free copy of Still Dancing, the second book in my Dancing through Life Series. click here to sign up
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