In our youth-idolizing culture, it’s vital that as Christians we refuse to have the same attitude toward aging as those in the world who have no hope in the Lord.

I read a distressing and heartbreaking story a few years ago in which beauty meant so much to an elderly woman that without her youthful, beautiful face she felt life was no longer worth living. Here's an excerpt:

Italian woman, 85, ends her life at Swiss euthanasia clinic because she was upset about losing her looks

A healthy Italian woman paid a Swiss right-to-die clinic to take her life because she was 'unhappy about losing her looks'.

Oriella Cazzanello, 85, travelled to a clinic in Basel, Switzerland, where she paid €10,000 for an assisted suicide.

The elderly woman, who was in good mental and physical health, disappeared from her home in Arzignano, Italy, without telling her relatives where she was going.

Her family, who had reported her to the police as missing, only learnt of her death after they received her ashes and death certificate from the clinic.

Mrs. Cazzanello chose to end her life because she was ‘weighed down by aging and the inevitable loss of the looks of which she was proud’ the Italian news agency reported.

Read more: alexschadenberg.blogspot.ca

Aging isn't for sissies

Aging is difficult by most everyone’s standards. When Billy Graham entered his nineties and began experiencing the burdens and sorrows and losses of this stage of life, he concurred with the opinion that ‘old age is not for sissies.’1

Even the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 reveals just how difficult and challenging aging is by telling us to fix our eyes on what isn’t seen:

Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

In other words, he lets us know aging will require a lot of faith to live through it correctly. Yes, our outward beauty, health and strength are fading, but our inward faith, hope, joy and perseverance are being perfected.

Hebrews puts it this way:

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross” —Hebrews 12:1b-2a

It'll be worth it!

The process of God loosening our grip on our earthly possessions and in the case of Oriella – letting go of her temporal beauty – is painful. As we age, it seems He speeds up the process of perfecting our faith with loss after loss. We need God’s strength to face these challenges. That’s why He reminds us to keep our eyes fixed on Him until we finally see Him face to face when our gain will far outweigh our loss!

This is the joy we need to set before us as we endure the cross of aging and it’s the answer to every aging person who asks us to give the reason for the hope that we have. (I Peter 3:15)

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
~ Helen H. Lemmel

When your face wrinkles and body stoops, don’t reach for the mirror – fix your eyes on Jesus!

Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. —Psalm 34:5
RELATED EVENT — Engaging Our Aging, a one-day conference for anyone who is (or suspects he may be) aging AND anyone caring for a person who is aging, chronically ill, or terminally ill. It will be held Saturday, October 28, at Grace Community Church in Hudsonville, Michigan, and feature Dr. John Dunlop, MD. Dr. Dunlop is a geriatrician and member of Yale School of Medicine's faculty. He's also the author of several books on aging gracefully. Learn more and register to attend.

 

1. Graham, Billy. Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well. Detroit: Gale Cengage Learning, 2013. p.vii

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