I am now retired, and I look like a shadow of my former self. People no longer respect me, but treat me like a child. I never dreamed my life would end like this! I find myself getting mad at God and irritated by the people who love me the most. What shall I do?
I have had a very successful career. I have multiple graduate degrees, traveled the world, and had a host of admirers. I was famous for my contributions. But now I am retired, and I look like a shadow of my former self. People no longer respect me, but treat me like a child. I feel so sad. Quite honestly, I never dreamed my life would end like this! I find myself getting mad at God and irritated by the people who love me the most. What shall I do?
Sincerely, Angry and Elderly
Dear Angry and Elderly,
You are not alone. Approximately 65 million adults living in the U.S. are 65 and older. Many have physical limitations. Many have lost a spouse.
I’ve heard many older people say, “My body tells me I’m old, but my brain tells me I’m still eighteen.” Do you feel older and wiser, or older and angrier? We mustn’t lie to ourselves by saying, “I can’t!” rather than “I can!” and “I will!”
Aging is a fact of life.
Our bodies begin to break down. We all experience loss and limitations. However, God gives us the faith, strength, and bravery to follow Him even if we don’t know the future.
I am constantly amazed at the barrage of media misinformation promising we don’t have to get older. We can juice, exercise, and lift our sagging flab with plastic surgery, but we can’t outrun the years!
God’s plan is to renew us.
Every day is a new adventure. He renews our minds with his Word. He restores our souls with His comforting presence. We can focus more time and energy on spiritual things. We have nothing to prove. We have nothing to lose.
“For this reason we never become discouraged. Even though our physical being is gradually decaying, yet our spiritual being is renewed, refreshed day after day. And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory. For we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV
God’s plan is to sustain us.
I’ve suffered terrible health setbacks. I had open-heart surgery at thirteen and have suffered from a litany of serious illnesses ever since. My doctors often warned, “Roger, you may not be able to ….” I was not easily discouraged, but challenged to believe in God’s power. God’s grace has no limitations. None of His plans for my life were thwarted!
No one believed I would be able to preach 3,000 sermons over forty years, travel the world teaching and training pastors, or raise millions of dollars for missions and ministries.
Now I am retired. Or so I thought. I don’t have the physical strength I had even five years ago. At first, every Sunday was depressing because I didn’t have the stamina to preach any longer.
But nothing is over in your life until God says it’s over!
God has allowed me to write for readers around the world, counsel thousands of people online, and to spend extra time with my family. Even Paul, half-blind and beaten, living chained in a dark hole, penned Philippians, the epistle of joy. He rejoiced because every few hours, Paul was chained to a different Roman guard, providing a captive audience for him to share the gospel.
“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16 NIV
God’s plan is for us to live full lives.
We never have to live in regret over past mistakes. We never have to live in fear over future challenges. Jesus said,
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:1 NIV
Satan wants to steal our abundant life. But He can only do so if we let him rob our present peace by entrapping us in the guilt of the past or the fear of the future. We enjoy abundant life in our present.
So how do you stay youthful in the Lord?
Look forward. God is not finished with you.
“Be confident of this: He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 ASV
Worship often. Praise lifts your spirits and strengthens your heart.
“I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1
Remember God’s blessings in your life. Be grateful. It keeps you humble and joyful.
“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.” Psalm 77:11 ESV
I have uploaded 20,000 photos that rotate in a digital frame. My family walks by them every day and are reminded of the people and experiences that have brought us joy.
Recognize that you will suffer physical limitations, but they don’t have to define you. Instead, use your own losses to empathize and comfort others.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV
I never knew how to comfort grieving parents until I lost my first baby. Loss deepens our compassion.
Increase your prayer life.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. NIV
Social media connects us in new and deeper ways. Pray for those who express their needs to you. Pray globally. Be available to pray with others.
Volunteer your time for ministry.
“Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” Psalm 100:2 KJV
Be creative. Ask God to make Divine appointments for you. Get involved in your church as often as you can. My friend Andy lived a profligate life. He walked into our Navigator group at church and became on fire for Jesus! He went to seminary at 80, worked tirelessly for the Gideons passing out Bibles, and assisted his wife Martha with Operation Christmas Child.
Deepen relationships with your family and friends.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 KJV
Don’t waste those moments. You don’t get them back.
You can still be young on the inside.
You can still enjoy life.
You can choose to grow in your faith.
Look forward. Jesus sustains you.
Look toward heaven. Jesus awaits you.
Well, I hope this encourages you to keep going… God is not done with you yet!
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his 35-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.
Editor's Note: This Ask Roger article features insights from Roger's daughter, Brie Barrier Wetherbee, a sought-after Bible teacher and conference speaker, author, analyst, and Christian theologian.
Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.