Getting Old Is No Fun

Youth provides a brief window of blessing.  Use it carefully.

About two months ago I was riding somewhere with my step-father when he turned to me and said, “Old age is no fun.” 

Understatement of the year. 

From that point on I watched him go downhill in meteoric fashion,  until I buried him this week.

He was eighty-one.  There’s a lesson in all this for those who are younger that I’d like to recycle from our study of Ecclesiastes. 

That is, if you’re not dead or dying yet, you’re supposed to be actively remembering something. 

You’d think the time for remembering would be when you’re old.  But Solomon says in Ecclesiastes chapter 12, verse 1—”Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.’”  Days are coming when everything seems to hurt.  Even routine visits to the doctor’s office becomes worrisome, as you wonder what bad news might be uncovered.  Before that becomes the case, and while you’re enjoying life, remember your Creator.

Before life’s train wreck, learn how to pray, get to know your Bible, walk with the Lord.  Do this before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed” (vv. 2-3).   This poetic description captures the characteristics of old age—palsied trembling, bent stature, lost teeth, dimmed eyesight.

There’s more, and not a bit of it is fun:

4 and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low— 5 they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails”

Consider the inferences to aging in verses four through five.  You’ll get to a place of becoming sensitive to sound, even waking because of a bird.  Energy will fade so that there is no more flitting about to song.  Fear and terrors increase with physical frailty.  The almond tree blossoms in verse 5 remind us of white hair.  A loss of strength is seen in the grasshopper dragging itself along.  Finally, sexual desire fails.

Why is all of this happening? “Because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets” (v. 6).  Remember your Creator, before all of this takes place in earnest.  Remember in a way that makes a difference in day-to-day life, before it all ends—“before the silver cord is snapped, or the Golden Bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, and the dust returns to the Earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.  Vanity of vanities, says the preacher. All is vanity” (vv. 7-8).

Enjoy your life, Solomon says, but at the same time, remember. 

However, the New Testament believer has a far greater, richer, more extensive memories to call upon than even Solomon could have imagined, for our Creator has become incarnate for us, lived for us, died for us, and then risen for us.  This is why, When Jesus instituted his table, He took bread and wine, instructed us to eat and drink, and then “Remember” Him.  And later, when Paul wrote to Timothy, he told him to, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.”  

Remembrance floods us with appreciation, and protects us from foolishness.  Jesus spoke of a man who didn’t have enough room for all of his wealth.  His money wouldn’t fit in the mattress anymore, so he decided to super-size his storage areas.  Apparently he was so pleased with his decision, he started talking to himself, saying, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’

But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’” (Luke 12).  The man had practiced the part of Ecclesiastes that spoke of enjoyment, but totally neglected the part about remembering God, of letting the conscious reality of His Creator (and not his possessions) guide his life.

We have jobs, kids, pets, hobbies, and assorted responsibilities.  Though they are blessings, they also tend to compete for control of your life.  For instance, you might invest so much into all these things, that one day, suddenly, you’ll wake up and find yourself a retired, empty-nester.

By that time, forgetting God has become a habit hard to break.  You might do like a lot of other folks—double-down with your grandchildren, and with old-folks’ interests, until one day you can’t remember much, including your own name.  Timing, therefore, is critical.  Remember God now.

Even while you’re exploring so many options in life, learn to pump the brakes.  Prioritize regular worship with other Christians.  As other millennials check out of church, and forget their Creator, you step up and do the opposite.  As a parent, don’t model a life for your kids that neglects, or worse, trash-talks the people of God, for whom Christ died.  While you’re crossing paths with people of all kinds, both those who make you laugh, and those who make you grit your teeth, remember to share your faith.  Do indiscriminate good for people—yes, even if they think it’s kind of weird.

When Christ returns  we will excavate all these things, and countless more, at His judgment seat, reviewing them in His presence.  Hopefully, it will be a time of grand enjoyment for you, as you celebrate works that have flowed out of His grace, and through you.

Please do it while you still can.  The inevitable is coming.

And like the man said, it really is no fun. 

4 comments

  1. I love the Lord and remember Him everyday. However this article depressed me. What happened to “I will Renew your youth and living so you’re 120?” Theres so much more to our creator God then just remembering him before we die!! This says to remember Him before evil comes. Except Jesus defeated the works Of evil!! He also stole back the keys to hell death in the grave! There is great promise to those who belong to God. And we never DiE!! And besides, it’s the enemy that uses fear of death. I remember the Lord God because I am compelled by His Love and Grace!!

    1. Hi Michelle,

      Actually, part of the intent of the Book of Ecclesiastes is to sober the reader and portray life “under the sun” not as one full of hope and purpose, but one of vanity. Please note that with the rarest exceptions, nowhere in the Bible are we promised to avoid suffering physical death. The Bible (especially in a book like this one), prepares us for this reality. The good news is that God has provided a way not to escape the gray inevitability of this life, but go through it with the grace of Christ.

      When handling books of the Bible, one of our challenges lies in preserving the central message of the book, without trying to abrogate it. For instance, the peculiar power of Ecclesiastes lies in the practical wisdom it gives in how to deal with this life, think about it, and understand the limits of it. We must therefore submit to its message.

      Still, we do realize that Ecclesiastes is also part of a larger whole. For having encountered “life under the sun,” we eventually find ourselves in the gospels where there is a life above the sun. The Bible intended for us to believe both. Without the depressing message of Ecclesiastes, we will never embrace the freeing message of Jesus, who said, “He who believes in Me, even if He dies, yet shall He live.”

      I’m so glad you remember the Lord as you pointed out, but the remembrance commanded both in Ecclesiastes and in the gospels and epistles (and as explained in my post) goes beyond mere memory. It guides and shapes life.

      I hope this helps make a little more sense of the post.

  2. I look forward to your article each Wednesday. By far, this one hit home to me. For some reason this verse always stuck with me but I never quite understood it till today. Thank you for writing this, I needed to read it for so many reasons. I will pray for you as this truly blessed me. One day soon it seems then we won’t be needing to remember, we will be living it.
    Have a great day – Mary

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Mary. The word of God really has a way of speaking to us in every phase and season of life. I feel that I have been especially kept by it during my current experiences. I’m glad that you can testify the same.

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