Chinese Church Voices

Hope in the Sunset Years

Chinese Church Voices is an occasional column of the ChinaSource Blog providing translations of original writing by Christians in China. The views represented are entirely those of the original author; inclusion in Chinese Church Voices does not imply or equal an endorsement by ChinaSource.

This article from Tianfeng, a journal of the Three-Self Church, discusses how God cherishes the older generation. The writer describes why those in the “sunset years” of their life ought to live with a great hope because of who God is.

Living the Sunset Life with a Sense of Hope

One morning during the summer holiday after my second year in primary school, a group of us children went to our classmate Xiao Ru’s house to play hide-and-seek. Xiao Ru’s grandmother was sitting in the shade of a tree in front of the house doing needlework, with her dark face wrinkled chrysanthemum-like, her back severely humped, and with her clumsy legs and feet.

The sun was shining white through the leaves of the locust tree and turned their color into a transparent pale green, but the grandmother in the shade still could not thread the needle smoothly and she called out to her granddaughter from time to time for help. She often confused the names of Xiao Ru and her sister when calling them, and we laughed at Xiao Ru’s drawling voice when she impatiently corrected her. Grandma was not annoyed, but smilingly looked at us, a group of tireless children jumping up and down, and murmured to herself, as if she were saying to us, “You young people shouldn’t laugh at the grey-hair. After all, how long can a flower retain its brightness after it blossoms?” The little ones laughed, a flock of sparrows was startled and flew away from the tree in front of the house. Grandma’s words sent ripples through my young heart.

When you are old, your face loses its beauty and freshness. When you are old, your legs and feet no longer fly so fast. When you are old, your ears will no longer hear clearly and eyes see not as keenly. When you are old, your thoughts will no longer be as quick and clear. When you are old, you will no longer be valued or needed by others, and will be forgotten and deserted by this busy and noisy world. When you are old, you will feel the resignation and loneliness of “an unimaginably beautiful sunset, but that it’s almost dusk.”

However, quite a few older people have lived out a different and enviously blessed life. Some of them either opened a new chapter or continued to write the glory of their lives in their later years. For example, in the Old Testament, there was the godly man Moses, and Abraham’s anonymous elderly servant, and the “differently willed” Caleb. God does not necessarily call and use a man in his youth, but can also do so when he is old. Moses once said: “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty” (Psalm 90:10). God used Moses not in his 40s when he was strong and vigorous, but in his 80s. When he thought he was near his end, God called him to take the Israelites out of Egypt.

Some of the work from God is specifically assigned to the elderly. Abraham trusted his elderly servant, with his rich life experience, to find a wife for his only son. The servant did not fail his master and brought back Rebecca from many miles away. When God brings us into our latter years, there will certainly be important work for us to do, just like the 85-year-old Caleb, upon whom God continued to write the brilliance of his life and win the promised land.

God never leaves us to live in hopeless dismay, even when we are near the end of our days. We ought not to disparage ourselves when God brings us into our latter years, for he will give us the ability we need. Just as we were in our latter days, so shall our strength be!

Some older people live with devout hope, not looking back but looking forward to the future, to living life in its fullness, just like Simeon and Anna in the New Testament. Hope is one of the greatest forces in the human heart. It is common tendency among older people to live in the past. They remember the past and how great it was compared with an unsatisfactory “now,” and so they fall into discouragement. Instead of dwelling on the past, Simeon and Anna take their eyes off the unpleasant present and instead cast their eyes upon the promise of the Messiah. Simeon was “waiting for the consolation of Israel ” (cf. Luke 2:25), and both he and Anna belonged to a small group of Jews who “looked forward to the redemption of Jerusalem ” (cf. Luke 2:38). They believed in God’s promises and hoped that the Messiah would come in their lifetime. “Why fear the sunset when its beauty is unlimited?” Those who have hope in their hearts will not decay or get lost, but will prosper in the house of God, and bear the fruit of joy because of their hope in their later days.

As we grow old, we come to understand that aging starts with the heart. The kind of stagnation produced by the constraint of established experience, the sophistication forged by dealing with the world, and the dusty heart—these are the real effects of aging. Even though their skin looks young, their heart may be full of wrinkles, which will inevitably flow and emit from the corners of their eyes, the tips of their brows, their writing, the fragments of their speech, their every movement, and every corner of life. However, for those who have faith in God and hope in the Lord, even if they are in the twilight of their lives, they shall not be worried or afraid, because God has promised that “They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, ” (cf. Psalm 92:14).

Original Article: 感悟盼望中度过夕阳人生 by  天凤 (WeChat ID: ccctspm_tianfeng)

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