At the gym this morning, there was a thin gentleman with a ‘wonky’ leg on the treadmill. He looked to be in his sixties, and a bit frail. But he stayed on the treadmill for nearly half an hour, walking uphill, too! Then he went over to one of the rowing machines and rowed for twenty minutes with the good leg in the strap and the poorly leg on the floor to one side. The gym was fairly busy, mainly with ‘ripped’, younger men who seemed to find everything easy, but I was impressed with the persistence of this chap with the wonky leg. He wasn’t going to give up!
It can be very easy for older people to give up, and become passive. Passivity leads to apathy, and that can be a big spiritual problem. A pastor I met at New Wine told me how concerned he was about some of the older members of his church, who’d become apathetic. He really cares about them and wants to stir up their spiritual lives again. I’m praying that God will give him good results.
It’s a bit of a myth that because they’ve experienced God’s goodness and interventions all their lives, older people are strong in their faith. This isn’t always the case, at all. When you’ve experienced so much loss – loss of your peer group, loss of family and people you’ve trusted, loss of people who affirmed your worth, you can lose trust in your own perceptions, and judgements. Even stalwarts of the faith can have their doubts. Paul describes this so well in Romans 7.
One of our home supporters, who was a pastor and a missionary for years and years, says that Satan reserves his fiercest attacks for God’s older saints. And the other week, my pastor threw light on this, when he spoke on Matthew 13. In Matthew 13 Jesus talks about the birds snatching away the seeds of faith that have been sown – the birds are a metaphor, of course. Later on in the same chapter Jesus talks about the seed being grown into a tree and then the birds of the air come and make their nesst in the (grown) trees’ branches.
My pastor pointed out that as the birds tried to snatch the seed away, once they are nesting in the mature tree they will be tweeting thoughts and temptations that are not good, and that we, who relate to older Christians, need to act as scarecrows chasing them away. We do that by encouraging one another, and building one another up, don’t we, replacing the negative with the truth. That’s a powerful picture! In our housing and care homes, giving spiritual encouragement and support is a key priority. Seeing the effect on frail, old saints is amazing. Do pray for our care home managers as they faithfully do this. If you haven’t already seen it, have a look at the little film we made recently. It’s on YouTube, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zufZ0AryBNg. And be glad that part of our role is to be scare-crows, chasing away the birds that nibble away at our senior’s faith!