Can My Dementia Keep Me from Christ?
Latest Episode:1530
Can My Dementia Keep Me from Christ?

The Blessing of Older Believers

Posted April 19, 2024
Christian Living

I hardly knew anyone when I moved to California in July 2020. Everything familiar to me was suddenly far away. As a stranger in a new state amid a pandemic, I spent many hours alone in my room studying, watching TV, or talking to friends back home. During this season, I felt a gaping emptiness, a void from the lack of fellowship in my life. Longing for fellowship, in the Lord’s providence, I found it in an unexpected place: Among the older saints in my local church.

Over time, the loneliness waned, and the number of hours spent in my room alone reduced significantly as dear older Christians welcomed me into their homes and lives. Through meals, board games, and numerous conversations, I was blessed by their wisdom and comforted by their presence. Reflecting on that season, there are a few reasons their fellowship has blessed me.

Wisdom to Share

Naturally, our older brothers and sisters in Christ have lived longer lives than most of us and encountered a diversity of life experiences. Because of this, they have a wealth of wisdom to share. Whether it is difficulties in relationships with children, frustrations at work, or loss of loved ones, their experiences with life’s struggles cannot be underestimated. When navigating uncharted situations, we can quickly feel overwhelmed and isolated. However, there is a great comfort in walking alongside someone who has encountered similar trials and has the wisdom to share how to walk through such seasons well.

Scripture confirms the value of the elderly to us in many places, like the book of Proverbs, which speaks highly of the “crown” of wisdom and honor that comes with age: “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life” (Prov. 16:31).

Before I moved to California, I went through a difficult breakup and struggled immensely with the disappointment. In sharing my feelings with fellow saints, I was blessed by their wisdom in how to trust in the Lord’s promises in seasons where there is great disappointment. That season might have been filled with bitterness and deep sadness if I had not received their counsel. Truly, there can be great wisdom with age (Job 12:12).

Testimonies of God’s Faithfulness

In addition to the wisdom older saints have to share in hard places, they also have sweet testimonies of God's faithfulness from those trials. As these dear believers share some of their sufferings with us, we can readily hear the heartbreak and pain in their voices. Yet, in the same breath, they will confess how faithful God is and how he sustained them through those seasons.

While not sugarcoating the hardships, they can now look back on those seasons with joy and marvel at the beautiful work that the Lord did in their lives. These testimonies are an encouragement to younger Christians, as they struggle to feel that anything good could come out of their suffering. A first hand testimony of those whose lives demonstrate the work that the Lord’s grace can do, even in dire circumstances, is a tremendous blessing to we who are in the middle of trials. As Scottish Presbyterian minister Samuel Rutherford beautifully stated, “I see grace groweth best in winter.”

Joy In Suffering

As part of living in a sin-cursed world, our bodies become frail and weak over time. We become more susceptible to illnesses as immune systems weaken and once-strong muscles feeble. Dear older saints feel this decline of their health. Older adults in the church may suffer from various physical ailments like arthritis, stiffness and fatigue, and more serious concerns like hip replacements, broken bones, and even the loss of their sight and hearing. Yet, despite these physical hardships and fundamental changes to their health and existence, I have seen the true joy of older saints, and a childlike faith in their heavenly Father’s promises to care and provide for his children (Matt. 6:25-34). This trust and joy is a powerful testimony of the work that only God can do in a believer’s heart amidst difficulties.

17th century English minister, Thomas Watson, wrote, “To be thankful in affliction is a work peculiar to a saint. Every bird can sing in spring, but some birds will sing in the dead of winter. Everyone, almost, can be thankful in prosperity, but a true saint can be thankful in adversity.” In each case of a suffering yet joyful Christian, older saints often give us an incredible picture of the magnificent and gracious work of the Lord’s grace in suffering. These saints serve as a tremendous example of people who are patient in tribulation (Rom. 12:12).

Often, we gravitate towards spending time and fellowship in church with people our age. Many church ministries are designed to be age-specific. This, of course, is not a negative thing, but in being part of the body of Christ, we need other saints’ gifts—regardless of age! Paul writes, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good… For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Cor. 12:7, 12). As we share in fellowship with these dear ones, we recognize that despite age differences, our common identity in Christ and hope in the gospel are more transcendent than the time that separates us (Gal. 3:28-29, Col. 3:11). This deep bond in faith means that we not only have sweet fellowship in this life, but also in the eternal life to come.



Footnotes

  • Samuel Rutherford, Letters of Samuel Rutherford, (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1664, repr. 1984), 157.

  • Thomas Watson, All Things For Good (Edinburgh: The Banner Of Truth Trust, 1663, repr. 2001), 62-63.

Photo of Arie Van Weelden
Arie Van Weelden

Arie Van Weelden is a book nerd, sports fan, and movie lover from Wisconsin. He’s in his third year at Westminster Seminary pursuing his M.Div. and serves as a pastoral intern for a local church. He and his wife love bird-watching and trips to the beach. When he’s not reading theology, he’s actively engaging in his role as the World’s Greatest Uncle.