Back in the 1970s I saw Helen Hayes in a made-for-TV movie. Some of you may recognize her. She was known as the “First Lady of the American Theater,” beginning her career on Broadway in 1905, when she was only five years old. In the 1930s, Helen expanded her stardom to films, and finally to television.
The reason she comes to mind now and then is the impression she made upon me, as an energetic, sparkly eyed senior citizen. I remember thinking, “When I get old, I want to be like that!”
Poof. Four decades have passed, and I am indeed getting old! I don’t feel like it, but that doesn’t stop the incessant turning of the calendar pages.
So I was delighted to come across these verses from Psalm 92 that cast aging in a positive light:
“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him” (vs. 12-15).
Palm trees do indeed flourish, living up to 100 years. Withstanding heat, drought, and high winds, these trees stand tall and strong; their leaves fresh and green all year long.
What a perfect picture of an energetic, sparkly eyed senior citizen!
How do we achieve such age-defying qualities?
First, notice that the righteous will flourish. When our faith is grounded in God, when we follow his principles for a prosperous life, we flourish.
Like the palm tree that grows straight up toward heaven, the righteous reach for the God of heaven. That’s how they’re able to stand strong through the winds of change and difficult circumstances.
The psalmist then continues: “The righteous will…grow like a cedar of Lebanon.”
Majestic cedar trees grow to 120 feet in height and up to 30 feet in circumference. They provide the perfect picture of a firm, stable person. Just as the cedar’s roots go deep into the soil, so the righteous person is rooted and grounded in God’s love (Ephesians 3:17). From those roots comes the nourishment needed to remain strong and spiritually healthy.
Second, notice where these trees are planted: in the house of the Lord. They flourish in the courts of our God.
Charles Spurgeon, that eloquent preacher and writer of the 1800s, had this to say about those who dwell in habitual fellowship with God: “They shall become men [and women] of full growth, rich in grace, happy in experience, mighty in influence, honored and honorable.” Now that sounds like a very satisfying way to live—so much better than the opposite!
Think of a complaining oldster whose mouth turns down from constant disgruntlement. His bottom lip protrudes from perpetual pouting, and his brow is permanently lowered into a frown because anger often rules his emotions. All this negativity has stunted the growth of his maturity. He’s unhappy much of the time, and is not held in high regard by others. Do you suppose he ever considers that his way of life is terribly unsatisfying?
However! When our lives are centered upon worship of God, as we express gratitude for his blessings, praise for his attributes, contentment for where he’s placed us, and joy in the midst of trials, we become those admirable men and women Dr. Spurgeon described above: mature, gracious, and happy.
Dr. Spurgeon also added “mighty in influence and honored.” God rewards the righteous aged with “fruit.” In other words, we may still bring glory to God by our words and actions—well into old age.
We can be:
- Energetic—with the power of the Holy Spirit
- sparkly-eyed—with the indwelling of God’s peace
- grace-filled—with continual demonstrations of God’s love to others
- joyful—with hearts focused on God’s blessings
These kinds of saints provide a powerful example of God’s faithfulness—through pleasant times and challenges, through plenty and want, year after year.
May we continue to grow deep and stand tall—all the days of our lives.