If you’re over forty, one thing the rapid approach of another Christmas will do is make you realize that you are getting older. And for many, the thought of getting older is not a pleasant one.
Getting older can be tough. Not only does the wearing down of your body become more evident, but your past failings, missed opportunities, and concerns about the future all seem to crowd your thoughts as well.
But does realizing you are growing older mean you’re washed up? Does it consign you to a future of hopeless stagnation? No, it doesn’t. But for most people, looking to their coming days with a sense of joy and purpose means they’re first going to have to clear a few hurdles.
The first hurdle that must be cleared is that of past failures. Everyone has failed in the past, and those with tender consciences can be haunted by these failures for years. In fact, with age, the foolishness that often accompanied these failures can seem even more burdensome. For this reason, adjusting to the idea of getting older requires those failings of the past to be resolved.
Advent and Christmas presents an opportune time to do this. Jesus Christ came as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And it is in looking to Him as our Savior that we find ourselves able to look to the future unencumbered by oppressive guilt.
A related hurdle that must be cleared is regret. Sorrow will immobilize you quickly when you begin to dwell on how you might have done things differently if you had it to do over again. But since we can’t do it over again, wallowing in regret is a snare we must avoid.
The Apostle Paul is instructive on this point. Here’s a man who had his regrets as he realized that he had been zealous for what was false and destructive. But he did not allow this to mire him down. Instead, he resolved to put his error behind him and press forward with his life in a way that would honor Christ (Phil.3:13,14). We must do the same when it comes to our regrets.
The last hurdle to mention has to do with fears. As you grow older, what you fear tends to change. For the first time ever you may have serious fears about a debilitating illness or death. But again, it’s at this time of year especially we must remember that Christ came to set us free from the bondage of these fears (Heb.2:15).
Another common fear that goes along with getting older is that the rest of your life will lack fulfillment and will be a waste. How is it that you ensure that the remainder of your days – be they few or many – not be spent in futility? You live them out by faith.
Without faith, everything this world has to offer – from food, to work, to pleasure – is nothing but vanity. But when we receive these things in faith from the One who gives them, we find our fulfillment and our joy.
And how is it that we show this faith? By fearing and obeying God. As Solomon said, “The conclusion, when all has been said, is fear God and keep his commandments, because this applies to every person” (Ecc.12:13).
Good words for everyone, whether you realize you are getting older or not.