1, 2. (a) What changes occur as old age approaches? (b) How did godly men of Bible times find satisfaction in old age?
MANY changes occur as we grow older. Physical weakness saps our vigor. A look in the mirror reveals new wrinkles and a gradual loss of hair color—even of hair. We may suffer some memory failure. New relationships develop when the children marry, and again when grandchildren arrive. For some, retirement from secular work results in a different routine of life.
2 In truth, advancing years can be trialsome. (Ecclesiastes 12:1-8) Still, consider God’s servants in Bible times. Although they finally succumbed to death, they gained both wisdom and understanding, which brought them great satisfaction in old age. (Genesis 25:8; 35:29; Job 12:12; 42:17) How did they succeed in growing older happily? Surely it was by living in harmony with the principles that we today find recorded in the Bible.—Psalm 119:105; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
3. What counsel did Paul give for older men and women?
3 In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul offered sound guidance to those who are getting older. He wrote: “Let the aged men be moderate in habits, serious, sound in mind, healthy in faith, in love, in endurance. Likewise let the aged women be reverent in behavior, not slanderous, neither enslaved to a lot of wine, teachers of what is good.” (Titus 2:2, 3) Heeding these words can help you to face the challenges of growing older.
ADAPT TO YOUR CHILDREN’S INDEPENDENCE
4, 5. How do many parents react when their children leave home, and how do some adjust to the new situation?
4 Changing roles call for adaptability. How true this proves to be when adult children leave home and get married! For many parents this is the first reminder that they are getting old. Though happy that their offspring have come of age, parents often worry about whether they did all they could to prepare the children for independence. And they may miss having them around the house.
5 Understandably, parents continue to concern themselves with the welfare of their children, even after the children leave home. “If I could only hear from them often, to reassure myself that they are all right—that would make me happy,” said one mother. A father relates: “When our daughter left home, it was a very difficult time. It left a great gap in our family because we had always done everything together.” How have these parents coped with the absence of their children? In many cases, by reaching out and helping other people.
6. What helps to keep family relationships in their proper perspective?
6 When children get married, the role of the parents changes. Genesis 2:24 states: “A man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife and they must become one flesh.” A recognition of the godly principles of headship and good order will help parents to keep things in their proper perspective.—1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:33, 40.
7. What fine attitude did one father cultivate when his daughters left home to get married?
7 After a couple’s two daughters married and moved away, the couple felt a void in their lives. At first, the husband resented his sons-in-law. But as he reflected on the principle of headship, he realized that his daughters’ husbands were now responsible for their respective households. Therefore, when his daughters requested advice, he asked them what their husbands thought, and then he made sure to be as supportive as possible. His sons-in-law now view him as a friend and welcome his counsel.
8, 9. How have some parents adapted to the independence of their grown children?
8 What if newlyweds, while not doing anything unscriptural, fail to do what the parents think is best? “We always help them to see Jehovah’s point of view,” explain one couple who have married children, “but if we do not agree with a decision of theirs, we accept it and give them our support and encouragement.”
9 In certain Asian lands, some mothers find it particularly difficult to accept their sons’ independence. However, if they respect Christian order and headship, they find that friction with their daughters-in-law is minimized. One Christian woman finds that the departure of her sons from the family home has been a “source of ever-increasing gratitude.” She is thrilled to see their ability to manage their new households. In turn, this has meant a lightening of the physical and mental load that she and her husband have to bear as they get older.
REINVIGORATING YOUR MARRIAGE BOND
10, 11. What Scriptural counsel will help people avoid some of the snares of middle age?
10 People react in various ways to reaching middle age. Some men dress differently in an attempt to appear younger. Many women worry about the changes that menopause brings. Sadly, some middle-aged persons provoke their mates to resentment and jealousy by flirting with younger members of the opposite sex. Godly older men, though, are “sound in mind,” curbing improper desires. (1 Peter 4:7) Mature women likewise work to maintain the stability of their marriages, out of love for their husbands and a desire to please Jehovah.
11 Under inspiration, King Lemuel recorded praise for the “capable wife” who rewards her husband “with good, and not bad, all the days of her life.” A Christian husband will not fail to appreciate how his wife strives to cope with any emotional upset she experiences during her middle years. His love will prompt him to ‘praise her.’—Proverbs 31:10, 12, 28.
12. How can couples grow closer together as the years pass?
12 During the busy child-rearing years, both of you may have gladly put aside your personal desires to attend to your children’s needs. After their departure it is time to refocus your married life. “When my daughters left home,” says one husband, “I began courtship with my wife all over again.” Another husband says: “We keep an eye on each other’s health and remind each other of the need for exercise.” So as not to feel lonely, he and his wife show hospitality to other members of the congregation. Yes, showing interest in others brings blessings. Moreover, it pleases Jehovah.—Philippians 2:4; Hebrews 13:2, 16.
13. What part do openness and honesty play as a couple grow older together?
13 Do not allow a communication gap to develop between you and your spouse. Talk together freely. (Proverbs 17:27) “We deepen our understanding of each other by caring and being considerate,” comments one husband. His wife agrees, saying: “As we have grown older, we have come to enjoy having tea together, conversing, and cooperating with each other.” Your being open and honest can help cement your marriage bond, giving it a resilience that will thwart the attacks of Satan, the marriage wrecker.
ENJOY YOUR GRANDCHILDREN
14. What part did Timothy’s grandmother evidently play in his growing up as a Christian?
14 Grandchildren are “the crown” of the elderly. (Proverbs 17:6) The companionship of grandchildren can truly be a delight—lively and refreshing. The Bible speaks well of Lois, a grandmother who, with her daughter Eunice, shared her beliefs with her infant grandson Timothy. This youngster grew up knowing that both his mother and his grandmother valued Bible truth.—2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14, 15.
15. With regard to grandchildren, what valuable contribution can grandparents make, but what should they avoid?
15 Here, then, is a special area in which grandparents can make a most valuable contribution. Grandparents, you have already shared your knowledge of Jehovah’s purposes with your children. Now you can do likewise with yet another generation! Many young children thrill to hear their grandparents recount Bible stories. Of course, you do not take over the father’s responsibility to inculcate Bible truths in his children. (Deuteronomy 6:7) Rather, you complement this. May your prayer be that of the psalmist: “Even until old age and gray-headedness, O God, do not leave me, until I may tell about your arm to the generation, to all those who are to come, about your mightiness.”—Psalm 71:18; 78:5, 6.
16. How can grandparents avoid being the cause of strain developing in their family?
16 Sadly, some grandparents so spoil the little ones that tensions develop between the grandparents and their grown children. However, your sincere kindness may perhaps make it easy for your grandchildren to confide in you when they do not feel inclined to reveal matters to their parents. Sometimes the youngsters hope that their indulgent grandparents will side with them against their parents. What then? Exercise wisdom and encourage your grandchildren to be open with their parents. You can explain that this pleases Jehovah. (Ephesians 6:1-3) If necessary, you may volunteer to pave the way for the youngsters’ approach by speaking with their parents. Be frank with your grandchildren about what you have learned over the years. Your honesty and candor can benefit them.
ADJUST AS YOU AGE
17. What determination of the psalmist should aging Christians imitate?
17 As the years roll by, you will find that you cannot do all that you used to or all that you want to. How does one come to terms with the aging process? In your mind you may feel 30 years old, but a glance in the mirror betrays a different reality. Do not be discouraged. The psalmist beseeched Jehovah: “Do not throw me away in the time of old age; just when my power is failing, do not leave me.” Make it your resolve to imitate the psalmist’s determination. He said: “I shall wait constantly, and I will add to all your praise.”—Psalm 71:9, 14.
18. How can a mature Christian make valuable use of retirement?
18 Many have prepared in advance to increase their praise to Jehovah after retirement from secular work. “I planned ahead what I would do when our daughter left school,” explains one father who is now retired. “I determined that I would start in the full-time preaching ministry, and I sold my business in order to be free to serve Jehovah more fully. I prayed for God’s direction.” If you are nearing the age of retirement, draw comfort from the declaration of our Grand Creator: “Even to one’s old age I am the same One; and to one’s gray-headedness I myself shall keep bearing up.”—Isaiah 46:4.
19. What counsel is given for those who are growing old?
19 Adapting to retirement from secular work may not be easy. The apostle Paul counseled aged men to be “moderate in habits.” This calls for general restraint, not giving in to the inclination to seek a life of ease. There may be an even greater need for a routine and self-discipline after retirement than before. Be busy, then, “always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) Widen out your activities to help others. (2 Corinthians 6:13) Many Christians do this by zealously preaching the good news at an adjusted pace. As you grow older, be “healthy in faith, in love, in endurance.”—Titus 2:2.
HANDLING THE LOSS OF YOUR SPOUSE
20, 21. (a) In the present system of things, what must eventually separate a married couple? (b) How does Anna provide a fine example for bereaved spouses?
20 It is a sad but true fact that in the present system of things, married couples are eventually separated by death. Bereaved Christian spouses know that their loved ones are now sleeping, and they are confident that they will see them again. (John 11:11, 25) But the loss is still grievous. How can the surviving one deal with it?*
21 Bearing in mind what a certain Bible character did will help. Anna was widowed after only seven years of marriage, and when we read of her, she was 84 years old. We can be sure that she grieved when she lost her husband. How did she cope? She rendered sacred service to Jehovah God at the temple night and day. (Luke 2:36-38) Anna’s life of prayerful service was undoubtedly a great antidote to the sorrow and loneliness she felt as a widow.
22. How have some widows and widowers coped with loneliness?
22 “The biggest challenge for me has been having no partner to talk to,” explains a 72-year-old woman who was widowed ten years ago. “My husband was a good listener. We would talk about the congregation and our share in the Christian ministry.” Another widow says: “Although time heals, I have found it more accurate to say that it is what one does with one’s time that helps one to heal. You are in a better position to help others.” A 67-year-old widower agrees, saying: “A wonderful way to cope with bereavement is to give of yourself in comforting others.”
VALUED BY GOD IN OLD AGE
23, 24. What great comfort does the Bible give for aged ones, particularly those who have been widowed?
23 Though death takes away a beloved mate, Jehovah remains ever faithful, ever sure. “One thing I have asked from Jehovah,” sang King David of old, “it is what I shall look for, that I may dwell in the house of Jehovah all the days of my life, to behold the pleasantness of Jehovah and to look with appreciation upon his temple.”—Psalm 27:4.
24 “Honor widows that are actually widows,” urges the apostle Paul. (1 Timothy 5:3) The counsel that follows this instruction indicates that worthy widows without close relatives may have needed material support from the congregation. Nevertheless, the sense of the instruction to “honor” includes the idea of valuing them. What comfort godly widows and widowers can draw from the knowledge that Jehovah values them and will sustain them!—James 1:27.
25. What goal still remains for the elderly?
25 “The splendor of old men is their gray-headedness,” God’s inspired Word declares. It is “a crown of beauty when it is found in the way of righteousness.” (Proverbs 16:31; 20:29) Continue, then, whether married or single once again, to keep Jehovah’s service first in your life. You will thus have a good name with God now and the prospect of eternal life in a world where the pains of old age will be no more.—Psalm 37:3-5; Isaiah 65:20.
For a more detailed discussion of this subject, see the brochure When Someone You Love Dies, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.