Stay on Mission—Even in the Later Years

A Living Hope

A living hope fixed on Christ makes us missional even in old age. In Psalm 71, David’s son rejects him, but David still wants to proclaim God’s righteousness, authority, and covenant love to the next generation. His son may not listen, but there are those who will, and there are those who will listen to you. The generational principle is expanded in Jesus’s Great Commission to disciple the nations (Matt. 28:18–20) and echoed in Titus 2:3–5: “Older women . . . are to teach what is good, and so train the young women.” Declaring the gospel to the next generation is a characteristic of living covenantally. We can be life-giving spiritual mothers even, and perhaps especially, in old age.1 I no longer have the physical or mental energy to teach a weekly Bible study, but here are a few ways I’m learning to be missional in this season.

The Privilege of Prayer

I love Paul’s mother imagery in Galatians 4:19: “My little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” They were Christians, but Paul longed for Christ to be formed— to grow bigger—in them. There is much we cannot do, but we can labor in prayer for the formation of Christ in the lives of those entrusted to us. I never knew my great-grandmother Cassie, but since I was a girl I heard about her love for Jesus and that she prayed for her children and for the generations to come. I am an answer to her prayers, and now my prayers mingle with hers as I pray for the generations to come.

The Power of Scripture

A young mama in our church was facing cancer surgery. Women were mobilizing to take care of her practical needs, but I was not physically able to help. Finally I told her my frustration and asked if there was anything I could do. She smiled and said, “Yes. My mind is so scattered I cannot think what Scriptures to read. Will you send me some verses?” I was immediately on it, emailing some verses, and then texting a verse each morning.

Aging with Grace

Sharon Betters, Susan Hunt

Today’s culture marginalizes old age, often portraying it as burdensome and hopeless. Here is a book that presents examples of women who have found joy in the passing of time as they age with grace—finding fulfillment in their enjoyment of God.

She repeatedly told me how the verses helped her deal with fear and gave her comfort and peace. We both flourished, and so did our friendship. When our grandchildren were little, Gene and I memorized Scripture with them. Now they are busy young adults, so we text them a Scripture verse every morning, and we ask the Holy Spirit to produce his fruit in their lives.

Stewarding Our Marriage

Gene and I are overwhelmed with God’s gift of a long and happy marriage. We pray we will be good stewards of this gift and show our grandchildren and the young couples in our church that, by God’s grace, marriage can grow sweeter each day.

The Fruitfulness of One-on-One Conversations

For years I coordinated a women’s ministry. I loved it, but it left little time for couch conversations—just sitting and talking. Twenty-five years ago these conversations would have been laced with solutions. Now, with a grateful nod to William Cowper, my conversations with young women are guided by his deep reflections on God’s providence as expressed in his hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.” Here is a sampling of these conversations.

“No one prepares you for how hard marriage and parenting are. When our spouses and children disappoint us, it’s easy to feel self-pity and sadness. When our kids are mistreated or upset, it affects us. I know Scripture says to trust the Lord and find joy in him, but it’s hard. The struggle is real! How can I be a life-giver while dealing with the realities of marriage and parenthood?”

God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform;
he plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.

Declaring the gospel to the next generation is a characteristic of living covenantally.

“I do not feel as if I’m flourishing; I’m just existing. My relationships, with a couple exceptions, are one-sided. My marriage is not bad, but it’s not alive or vibrant. I seldom feel wanted (needed—yes; everyone needs me to do things for them) or known simply for who I am. I try to press on by reading my Bible, but I still feel as though I just continue like a plant with green leaves and sap but no blooms or fruit.”

Deep in unfathomable mines of never-failing skill
he treasures up his bright designs, and works his sovereign will.

“My adult children’s choices break my heart. From the time they were born, I protected them. Now I can’t control what they do, so I can’t protect them from the consequences of their choices. I want to stay strong and finish well, but I’m emotionally exhausted.”

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds ye so much dread
are big with mercy, and shall break in blessings on your head.

“It’s hard to believe my husband left me after almost three decades of marriage. Last night was difficult. I fixated on what he did rather than on Jesus and what he has done and is doing.”

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust him for his grace;
behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face.

“I’m almost fifty. My job is boring. The women gossip and manipulate. How can I be a life-giver when they are sucking the life out of me?”

His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding ev’ry hour;
the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flow’r.2

These conversations feel familiar because they remind me of situations Jesus used to wean me from relying on myself to fix everyone and everything and woo me to trust his providence. It has taken decades for me to learn to be still, and know that he is God (Ps. 46:10) and that “in quietness and in trust shall be [my] strength” (Isa. 30:15). One joy of aging is a stillness of soul that helps us see the small moments as sacred moments when we can reflect God’s glory to someone else. I often encourage young women to watch for heavenly hugs—those seemingly ordinary things like a kind word or deed at just the moment we need it—and to praise God for his tender care. Length of days prepares us to help younger people see and trust God’s sovereign providence in their lives.

Notes:

  1. See Susan Hunt’s Spiritual Mothering: The Titus 2 Model for Women Mentoring Women (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1992) and Titus 2 Tools (Lawrenceville, GA: PCA Committee on Discipleship Ministries, 2016), a manual with suggestions for implementing Titus 2 discipleship in the local church.
  2. William Cowper, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” 1774.

This article is adapted from Aging with Grace: Flourishing in an Anti-Aging Culture by Sharon Betters and Susan Hunt.



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