| AGING AND COURAGE
By: Jerry S. Maneker
“If you have raced with foot-runners and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe
land you fall down, how will you fare in the thickets of the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5)
In the above verse of Scripture, God is telling us that life doesn’t get any easier as it takes its inevitable course.
Indeed, there will be even tougher times ahead for us and we better be prepared for it. If a minor setback shakes our
confidence in the sovereignty of God, then what will a catastrophe do to us and our faith?
God calls each one of His children to be tough! Getting older is not for wimps, as the claims disease and infirmities
make on our bodies make each one of us palpably aware of our mortality and the approaching end of our existence as
we now know it. Recently, I read of a statement that a ninety two year old woman said about life at her age: “Don’t
sweat the bad stuff!”
All of us are ticking time bombs! As we age, there are thousands of things that can go wrong with our bodies and
minds. When we get the local newspaper, the first thing my wife does is look at the obituaries; she makes it a point to
tell me the ages of the people who have died. Many of them are younger than me.
As we age we are forced to become theologians! We come to recognize that we can’t take anything for granted. We
even can’t take for granted the things we assumed to be true when we were younger. For example, when I was
younger I thought that when I hit forty years of age things would settle down for me and my life would be on an even
keel. All the work, time, and energy expended on my career and family would allow me a predictable future.
Of course, I was wrong! I learned that life has built within it twists and turns that can’t be predicted. The old saying,
“Man plans and God laughs” is certainly true. Burying oneself in the Scriptures is certainly helpful but, ultimately, the
unpredictability of life and its vagaries and assorted sufferings stake their claims upon each and every one of us,
whether we are biblically literate or not.
As the late Dr. George Sheehan said, “Life is an experiment of one.” As deep and intimate as is our relationship with
God, life still hurts. Suffering is endemic to life, and as the aging process looms large, our suffering increasingly
abounds. To deal effectively with the suffering and enlightenment that the encroaching aging process affords, we must
come to realize our utter helplessness before God’s sovereignty. This acknowledgment of our weakness and ultimate
decay and our throwing ourselves into the arms of God takes that leap of faith called “courage.”
Lord Moran, in his book, The Anatomy of Courage, wrote, “Courage is a moral quality; it is not a chance gift of nature
like an aptitude for games. It is a cold choice between two alternatives, the fixed resolve not to quit; an act of
renunciation which must be made not one but many times by the power of the will. Courage is will power.” Although
Moran wrote of will power in a secular sense, the message rings true in the spiritual sense as well.
Whereas in the natural scheme of things will power is needed to overcome adversity, in the spiritual scheme of things
will power must manifest itself in our yielding to God and His sovereign choices for us. As the Apostle Paul wrote
regarding his “thorn in his flesh” that he repeatedly beseeched God to remove, he relays the message from God that
contradicts our will to overcome adversity in our own strength. Paul wrote, “…he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for
you, for power is made perfect in weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with
weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am
strong” (2Corinthians 12:9-10)
The aging process gives us increasing permission to tap our physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual resources.
It is important to be physically fit through moderate exercise; we must be intellectually engaged in the world’s affairs
through reading and thinking; we must nurture our relationships, recognizing that they are but temporary and therefore
much more to be cherished; we must plumb the depths of our spiritual lives, nurturing our relationship with our Creator
and resting in Him and in His sovereign will for us.
For the Christian, the aging process holds no fear! Infirmities and diseases show the temporal and fragile nature of
our minds and bodies. As Paul wrote,“…though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.”
(2Corinthians 4:16 KJV) The Christian uses the aging process to increase in wisdom in the ways of God and accepts
the fragility of the temporal world and all that resides therein.
Our earthly passions do not abate with age, but are seen to be, as are our minds and bodies, mere straw for the fire.
We come to recognize that the only true Reality is God and God alone! Desires for power, prestige, wealth, and
possession are increasingly seen for what they are: fragile and empty worldly promises that leave one bereft of that
steely-eyed sense of one’s God-given purpose to minimize the temporal influences in our lives and accept the spiritual
verities that God has beckoned us to embrace. Those verities are embodied in God and in God alone!
The yieldedness that the wisdom of the aging process forces upon the Christian is that supreme act of courage that
God calls each one of us to exercise. The courage He demands of us is not our conquering of anything, as occurs in
the temporal world. The courage He demands of us is our yielding to His conquering of us! As the fragile, short, and
frequently empty things of this world become palpably obvious to us as our outward person decays, God once again
beckons His children, called out from the foundation of the world, to see Him as our only true hope and enduring
We have run with the foot-runners in our youth. Now we are to be prepared to run with horses that will usher us all into