Cast Me Not Off
“Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength fails. Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.” Psalm 71:9, 18
I am indebted to Brent Lewis whose article on the above subject appeared in the July 1987 issue of Christianity Magazine. This writer has added several passages to the original article to illustrate various points. Psalm 71 has been called “the Old Man’s Psalm.” Indeed, it expresses the universal fear of every man and woman as they grow old – being “cast off” or “forsaken.” The psalmist’s enemies were lurking in the background. David prayed in particular that when his strength failed, God would stand by him just as he, through his life, had stood by God.
Certainly men in general have the fear of being cast off by those they love when they lose their strength and are unable to care for themselves. What can those of us who are younger and stronger do to show care and concern for those who are in the sunset years of life?
First, we can recognize the advantages and honor of old age of which the Bible often speaks. “With aged men is wisdom, and in length of days understanding” (Job 12:12). “The glory of young men is their strength; and the beauty of old men is the hoary head” (Proverbs 20:29). The aged deserve respect, for they have great experience. “Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old” (Proverbs 23:22). Also, we can take time to visit those who are old. No one likes to be ignored, to be “put on the shelf.” We can pray for those who are aged, that they may bear up under their physical infirmities.
However, the matter of not being “cast off” by others when one is old is a two-way proposition. If you are old, what can you do to ensure that you will not be avoided by friends and family?
Work at being lovable. It is hard to be loved if you are not lovable. The aged must work hard at being thoughtful and considerate of others. Old age in itself does not necessarily demand respect. Respect, at any point in life, must be earned. It is very difficult to respect someone who is cantankerous and grouchy all the time. Unfortunately, old age often inclines one toward this.
Do not withdraw from life. Many older people are vibrant and active; much of it has to do with their attitude toward life. One must make the effort to reach out and become involved. Someone has said, “Age is not all decay, it is the ripening, the swelling of the fresh life within, that withers and bursts the husk.” If you are a Christian, you can still do things for the Lord. “Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age” (Psalm 92:13-14).
Ten suggestions from an unknown author
1) Guard against being overly sensitive. It is mostly an affliction of old age. Refuse to be slighted. Remember Proverbs 18:24 – “A man who has friends must show himself friendly.”
2) Do not bewail the fact that you are old. If you were not old, you’d be dead. As we age, certain passages should mean more and more to us: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
3) Do as much for your appearance as you can. Well-kept antiques are considered beautiful!
4) Morals never change, but customs and habits do. Cheerfully scrap a bushel of your old customs to conform to the present, so long as it does not violate God’s teachings. Many older people will need to leave their homes in order to receive the care that loved ones may provide.
5) Remember that you were young once.
6) No one is ever useless so long as he retains his mental vigor, though he may be physically handicapped.
7) Learn to be self-sufficient. There may come a time when you will be left alone. Read frequently the words of Paul: “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13
8) Don’t live in the past. Memories are precious to you, but unless solicited, keep them to yourself. Laugh at your mistakes! A good passage to remember during the “sunset years” is Hebrews 13:5, 6 – “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’”
9) Believe and live your faith in Christ. There is no situation you cannot handle when God is helping you.
10) Be as cheerful as sunshine, and as willing to change, when convinced, as the weather.
It is true that the fear of being cast off is a general one. However, there is much that can be done by those younger and older to prevent this from happening. Beyond this, though, we will never be cast off by our God if we will but love Him and serve Him, for “he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22).