A Great Perspective on Aging April 4, 2016
J. I. Packer will turn 90 in July. (And so, by the way, will our own Ralph Whitlock!) Most who are familiar with Packer know him through his writing ministry, which totals 300+ books, journal articles, book reviews, and other published works spanning six decades. Perhaps his most popular work is the modern-day classic Knowing God, which I strongly encourage you to read ASAP, if you’ve not already.
In the last few years as his health and strength waned, Packer has given careful thought to a Christian view of physical decline. Two books in particular—Weakness is the Way: Life with Christ our Strength (2013) and Finishing Our Course With Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging (2014)—detail his views. In the latter, he writes:
“How should we view the onset of old age? The common assumption is that it is mainly a process of loss, whereby strength is drained from both mind and body and the capacity to look forward and move forward in life’s various departments is reduced to nothing. …But here the Bible breaks in, highlighting the further thought that spiritual ripeness is worth far more than material wealth in any form, and that spiritual ripeness should continue to increase as one gets older. The Bible’s view is that aging, under God and by grace, will bring wisdom, that is, an enlarged capacity for discerning, choosing, and encouraging.
“This biblical expectation and, indeed, promise of ripeness growing and service of others continuing as we age with God is the substance of the last-lap image of our closing years, in which we finish our course. Runners in a distance race, like jockeys in a horse race, always try to keep something in reserve for a final sprint. And my contention is going to be that, so far as our bodily health allows, we should aim to be found running the last lap of the race of our Christian life, as we would say, flat out. The final sprint, so I urge, should be a sprint indeed.”
Isn’t that a great perspective on aging?! So in line with the Scriptures. So counter cultural. So encouraging as we feel the decline of our own strength and energy.
Next week: why this perspective has become especially relevant to Packer himself in the last few months.