The Later Years
1, 2. (a) What problems may arise after children leave home? (b) How do some try to deal with the problem of advancing age?
IF OUR lives are not filled with some activity, physical or mental, we become bored. Life seems empty, and we become restless. This problem sometimes arises for married persons when their children grow up and leave home. For their past many years, life was filled with the responsibilities of parenthood. Now all this activity and the responsibility of raising a family suddenly come to an end.
2 Besides that, as the years pass, physical changes begin to occur. Wrinkles appear, hair begins to turn gray, the hairline may recede, and aches and pains that were never noticed before manifest themselves. The fact is that we are getting older. Refusing to face the facts, some persons put forth frantic efforts to prove that they are just as young as they ever were. They suddenly become very active socially—rushing to parties or indulging heavily in sports. This flurry of activity provides something to do, but does it bring lasting satisfaction? Will it make a person feel genuinely needed so that his life has real meaning?
3. While recreation may be enjoyable, what should be avoided?
3 Recreation can, of course, be enjoyable. And in your later years of life you may find that you have time to do some things that could not be done when your children were young. But letting pleasure-seeking become the dominant concern can bring serious problems.—2 Timothy 3:4, 5; Luke 8:4-8, 14.
THE BEAUTY OF PROVING LOYAL
4, 5. What can result when an older person feels that he has to prove he is still attractive to the opposite sex?
4 At this time of life not a few persons seem to feel that they have to prove that they are still attractive to the opposite sex. They may begin by flirting with someone at a social gathering or elsewhere. Men, especially, have “affairs” with younger women, and in this time of the “new morality” there are also many women who seek reassurance by having extramarital “affairs.” Although perhaps married for many years, some begin to nourish ideas about starting a “new life” with a new marriage mate. They may try to justify what they are doing by pointing to the faults of their mate—while generally making light of their own shortcomings, including their lack of loyalty, both to their mate and to righteous principles.
5 They may know that Jesus said: “Whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication [porneia: gross sexual immorality], and marries another commits adultery.” Although Jesus was here showing that it is not right to divorce one’s mate on “every sort of ground,” they are willing to use any ground for divorce that secular laws allow. (Matthew 19:3-9) Then they proceed to get a new mate, often someone with whom they were involved before divorce proceedings ever began. While knowing what God’s Word says about such conduct, they may reason that in his great mercy God will “understand.”
6. How does Jehovah God view disrespect for the marriage covenant?
6 To avoid being enticed by such immoral thinking, we do well to consider what Jehovah, by means of his prophet Malachi, said to the people of Israel: “‘This is the . . . thing that you people do, this resulting in covering with tears the altar of Jehovah, with weeping and sighing, so that there is no more a turning [with approval] toward the gift offering or a taking of pleasure in anything from your hand. And you have said, “On what account?” On this account, that Jehovah himself has borne witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you yourself have dealt treacherously . . . And you people must guard yourselves respecting your spirit, and with the wife of your youth may no one deal treacherously. For he has hated a divorcing,’ Jehovah the God of Israel has said.” (Malachi 2:13-16) Yes, treachery in dealing with one’s marriage mate, disrespect for the marriage covenant—these are condemned by God; they damage one’s relationship with the Life-Giver.
7. Why does disrespect for the marriage covenant not lead to happiness?
7 Is this the way to a better life? Hardly. Any new marriage entered into by such persons rests on shaky ground. For one thing, they have shown that, even in this most precious relationship, they could not be counted on. True, they may see something appealing in the personality of the new mate that the former one did not have. But to get this, they sought their own pleasure regardless of causing hurt and heartache. Surely this is not a quality that works toward marital happiness.
8. In marriage, what is more valuable than physical beauty?
8 The beauty of remaining true to a marriage mate far surpasses any physical beauty. Physical beauty inevitably fades with the years, but the beauty of loyal devotion grows with each passing year. To seek another person’s happiness, and to be willing to put his or her interests ahead of your own, can bring lasting satisfaction, for there really is “more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) If two persons have been married for a number of years, and if they have communicated with and confided in each other, if they have shared work and goals and hopes, the hard times with the good—and have done this out of love—their lives will be genuinely united, interlaced. They have very much in common—mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The romantic love that may have blinded them somewhat to each other’s faults before marriage will give way to a heartfelt devotion that causes each one to see the shortcomings of the other as an opportunity to be of help, to fill a need. Between them there is a feeling of genuine trust, a sense of security, knowing that they will stay by each other no matter what problems may arise. For them it seems only the natural thing to be loyal to each other. As Micah 6:8 states: “He has told you, O earthling man, what is good. And what is Jehovah asking back from you but to exercise justice and to love loyal love and to be modest in walking with your God?”—Marginal reading.
GROWN-UP CHILDREN—A NEW RELATIONSHIP
9-11. (a) Is it God’s purpose for the relationship of parents and their children to remain identical throughout life? (b) What bearing does this have on the advice that parents may give to their grown children? (c) When their children are married, whose headship should parents respect?
9 Although husband and wife are to remain together throughout life, that is not the Creator’s arrangement for parents and their children. It is true that when your children were growing up they needed you every day. Not only were there physical needs that had to be cared for, but guidance was required. When they did not readily respond, you may have insisted on certain things that were for their own good. But when they establish their own household, the relationship between you and them changes to some extent. (Genesis 2:24) This does not mean that your feelings toward them change, but that there is a shifting of responsibility. So the way in which you do things for them needs to change.
10 At times they may still need advice. And it is an evidence of wisdom if they listen to sound advice from those who have more experience in life. (Proverbs 12:15; 23:22) But when offering counsel to sons or daughters who are on their own, it is wise to do it in a way that shows you recognize the fact that decisions now rest with them.
11 This is very important if they are married. There are some countries where long-established custom places the bride under the supervision of her mother-in-law. Elsewhere, in-laws exert strong influence in family affairs. But does this really result in happiness? The Creator of the family knows what is best, and he says: “A man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife.” (Genesis 2:24) The responsibility for decisions now rests, neither with the parents of the husband nor with the parents of the wife, but with the husband. “A husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation,” God’s Word says. (Ephesians 5:23) Pleasure in doing things for your grown children, and later for your grandchildren, can be greatly enhanced when there is respect for this arrangement.
ENJOY DOING THINGS FOR OTHERS
12. (a) After their children establish homes of their own, how might parents deepen their love for each other? (b) What else might they do to make their lives more meaningful?
12 There is a need that all of us have to feel that our lives are useful, that they have meaning. Satisfying this need is important to your own well-being. Apart from your children, there are many others in whose lives you can help to fill a need. What about your own marriage mate? While your children were growing up, much of your attention was directed to them. Now you have opportunity to do more things in a personal way for each other. This can help to deepen your relationship. But why limit your kind deeds to your own household? You can ‘broaden out’ by giving assistance to neighbors who become ill or by sharing time with elderly ones who are lonely or by providing material aid, in whatever ways you can, to persons who through no fault of their own come into material need. (2 Corinthians 6:11, 12) The Bible tells us of Dorcas, a woman who gained great love because she “abounded in good deeds and gifts of mercy that she was rendering” on behalf of widows. (Acts 9:36, 39) It commends those who are kind to the afflicted ones. (Proverbs 14:21) The Scriptures include ‘looking after orphans and widows in their tribulation’ as a vital part of the worship that is pleasing to God. (James 1:27) And the Bible encourages all of us: “Do not forget the doing of good and the sharing of things with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”—Hebrews 13:16.
13. What motivation makes helping others worth while?
13 Does this mean that becoming engrossed in purely humanitarian activities is the key to happiness? Actually, unless the motivation is a spiritual one, a desire to imitate God in showing love, it can lead to frustration. (1 Corinthians 13:3; Ephesians 5:1, 2) Why? Because there may well be disappointments when persons do not appreciate your kindness or when they try to take unfair advantage of your generosity.
14, 15. What makes life truly happy and satisfying?
14 On the other hand, when a person is truly using his life in the service of God, his greatest satisfaction comes from knowing that what he is doing is well pleasing to his Creator. And his ability to do things for other people is not limited by material resources. He has “the glorious good news of the happy God,” Jehovah, and the privilege of sharing it with others. (1 Timothy 1:11) From the Bible he knows how to cope with the problems of life now, and what the grand hope that God holds out for the future is. And what a pleasure it is to share such good news with others, and then to draw their attention to the Source of it, Jehovah God! As the inspired writer of Psalm 147:1 said: “Praise Jah, you people, for it is good to make melody to our God; for it is pleasant—praise is fitting.”
15 It is when we understand Jehovah’s will in connection with life and when we honor him that our own lives become filled with meaning. (Revelation 4:11) Genuine satisfaction will be yours if, to the extent that your circumstances permit, you participate fully in sharing Bible truths with other people. Although your own children may be grown, you can enjoy aiding ‘spiritual children’ to grow. And as you see them develop into mature Christians, you will feel as did the apostle Paul when he wrote to some that he had thus assisted: “What is our hope or joy or crown of exultation—why, is it not in fact you? . . . You certainly are our glory and joy.”—1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20.
BE FLEXIBLE WHEN CIRCUMSTANCES CHANGE
16, 17. (a) When it comes to problems, what should be avoided? (b) Even if a person loses his mate in death, what can help him not to be alone in facing new challenges?
16 In time, of course, most people find that they are no longer able to do as much as they once did. They need to be flexible, to be willing to make adjustments. Where there are health problems, these require attention. But it is wise to be balanced, not becoming so engrossed in these matters that one fails to see the opportunities that each day of life affords. Problems will exist, and if there is something constructive that one can do about them, it is wise to do it. But worry accomplishes nothing, and wishing that things were different does not change them. So, instead of longing for the past, take hold of the opportunities of the present.
17 The same applies if, in later years of life, you again find yourself in the single state. If you had a happy marriage, you no doubt will cherish fond memories. But life goes on, and this is a time when adjustments are needed. There are new challenges to be met, and if you live in a way that demonstrates faith in God, you will not be alone in meeting them.—Psalm 37:25; Proverbs 3:5, 6.
18-20. What factors can make life meaningful even in later years?
18 Despite life’s unpleasant aspects, there is much that can bring us pleasure—fine friends, opportunities to do things for other people, the enjoyment of a good meal, a gorgeous sunset, the singing of birds. Furthermore, while our present circumstances may not be ideal, we have God’s assurance that he will bring an end to wickedness and will remove from mankind all sorrow, anguish, sickness and even death itself.—Revelation 21:4.
19 It is true that the person who has taken a largely materialistic view of life may find his later years very empty. The writer of Ecclesiastes described the results of such living by saying: “Everything is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 12:8) But concerning men of faith, such as Abraham and Isaac, the Bible says that they reached the end of their lives “old and satisfied.” (Genesis 25:8; 35:29) What made the difference? These men had faith in God. They were convinced that in God’s due time the dead would live again, and they looked forward to the time when God himself would establish a righteous government for all mankind.—Hebrews 11:10, 19.
20 In your situation, too, if you do not allow the problems of the present to blind you to the many good things around you and the marvelous future that God has in store for his servants, your life will have meaning, and each day will bring you satisfaction, right on through the later years.
[Picture on page 176]
The more two lives overlap, the more two become one