Do you want to be loved and understood? Of course you do! Everybody does. But many people live and die without ever having felt truly loved and understood. Why? What's the reason for this paradox? According to statistics, a great number of those over 55 years of age do not participate in any of the activities of their community. They virtually have no social life. They are, for various reasons, social outcasts! Why? Why should it be so? Does life stop at 55? Is seclusion from society a natural offshoot of growing old? Why should old age spell loneliness? A person doesn't only die when his heart stops beating, he also dies when he has nothing to live for. Growing old, for many people, means recalling with nostalgia pleasant moments of the past, complaining about the present and worrying about the future. A few decades ago, it was said that old age was when you had gold in your mouth, silver in your hands and lead in your feet. In these inflationary times, this is no longer the case. Old age, for too many, is when they only have lead in their feet. When you shed tears over the good old days, you actually; shed tears over your inability to cope with the present. But it doesn't help. Pitying yourself won't solve your problems. It cannot change anything. Although life is a struggle for everyone, particularly for those who are handicapped or aged, life always smiles at those who smile at it, courageously. As the saying goes, A smile warms the heart of the one who gets it and doesn't cost a penny to the one who gives it. Life is meant to be shared. True success is measured with the measure of help we give one another, the genuine interest we show each other, the love we express for our neighbor — no matter what the circumstances. To know how to grow old is to know how to live!
Life is to be loved
Recently, I heard someone say, "After all, death doesn't really scare me, because life doesn't interest me anymore!" What a tragic statement. The man didn't understand what life is all about, neither did he know what happens after death. Nevertheless, in his ignorance, he wished to die. No wonder he was terribly fed up with everything, unhappy and ungrateful toward the Creator who had given him life. Life carries in itself a hope of fulfillment. So long as you are alive, you can hope to learn, to improve, to change, to accomplish your projects, even some of your wildest dreams. But death puts an end to everything — including your hopes. Solomon wrote, "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they, any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten" (Eccl. 9:5). Before God opened your eyes to the truth, you neither knew what life was all about, nor did you understand the meaning of death. But now you do. Think of it! As a member of God's Church, you are called for a purpose. You are a begotten child of God, with the promise of inheriting eternal life. Consequently you ought to love life, here and now — enjoy every moment of it in a way that will glorify God. The more you contribute to the well-being and happiness of others, the happier you yourself will be. Do you know what actually makes you lose interest in life? It is your vanity, your feelings of greed, jealousy and prejudice, as well as your complexes and fears. The sooner you get rid of them, the sooner you begin to live. As the French writer Jean de La Bruyere once said, "Most people spend the first half of their life making the second half miserable!" "All this is fine!" you may say. "But just how do we overcome the fear of aging? What is this thing called the art of living?" First of all, you must trust God implicitly. Remind yourself that, whatever the circumstances, whatever your age, He is truly interested in you — and that He loves you. He wants you in His Kingdom and has a job for you. You are important to Him! But the time to prepare for that job is here and now. Start working by using your talents', however small, in a constructive way — the give way Herbert Armstrong often speaks of. Be positive! There is always something you can do for someone else, always something you can give him. The apostle Paul wrote: "That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed" (Tit. 2:2-5). This is the give way that makes life worthwhile, interesting and most exciting. It prevents you from wanting to isolate yourself from your community, which not only needs your participation, but may also show its own appreciation of you in times and ways you least expect. Arthur Rubinstein, now in his early 90s, stated during an interview he gave in Paris about his life and activities, "Happiness only surrenders itself to those who court it." Are you really old? If so, be happy because your community needs your experience and wisdom. The Church of God also has need of you. But remember that you, in turn, need your community and the Church. Your love of life depends upon your participation in the activities of both your community and the Church. An active life precludes boredom; it engenders hope, faith and love. Isolation, seclusion or exclusion engender fear. "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear" (I John 4:18). One of the most important lessons we all must learn is to live the present and not the past. Perhaps the greatest service older people can render younger ones is to show them by their own example and positive attitude that one can be happy at any age. You — of all the people on the face of the earth — should be the least concerned about your age.
What death is
Before you came into the truth, you probably believed, as most people do in the world, that life continued after death somewhere in this vast universe. But now, you know better. To die is not to live. Death does not mean another life or continuation of life; it is the cessation of life. "For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity" (Eccl. 3:19). Man is a mortal being, made out of the dust of the earth. He became a living creature when God "breathed in his nostrils the breath of life" (Gen. 2:7). This breath of life does not remain in us when we die. There is neither memory, nor knowledge nor consciousness in death. We were born to develop character, which in itself is a lifelong process. Age has no power to stop it. "But, how can we develop character if we have no longer the strength, the means or the ability to be useful?" you may ask. "Isn't it a bit too late for us to grow spiritually or to develop character? Life is already behind us." You are mistaken! Life is not — and it cannot be — behind you. Life is now. It is never too late for anyone at any age to grow spiritually. As a baptized member of God's Church, as one being called by Him, your relentless efforts to grow spiritually until you draw your last breath actually represent your token of salvation. Today is your day of salvation — not yesterday. Today is the day of your judgment (I Pet. 4:17). If you are unable to undo the past, nevertheless you have full dominion over the present. You can straighten your life, change your attitude, improve your outlook, control your thoughts and desires, discipline yourself — in short, get each day closer to God. This is how you are being judged today. Don't you honestly think that your calling is an important enough reason for you to be wanting to live and learn and grow — regardless of your age?
The Christian hope
The apostle Paul wrote: "Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen ... then is our preaching vain... For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable" (I Cor. 15:12-19). You do firmly believe this, don't you? But Satan wants you to forget it. He will do anything to make you doubt God's Word. And don't let him make you think that you are too old to learn or have nothing to live for anymore. Just remember that you have the promise of eternal life to live for! When God put the first man in the garden of Eden, He instructed him to "dress it and to keep it." This commandment also applies to the care of our character. We must develop it and cultivate it until the end. Age does not enter into the picture. God is ageless. His Spirit in you will help you keep your mind active, jovial and in good health. It provides you the strength you need to endure your trials and difficulties. God knows that you can make it. That's why He has called you at this end time. Don't lose your crown by giving up, or thinking that you are too old to be useful. "The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness" (Prov. 16:31). We all reap in life what we sow. No one has even been — or ever can be — too old to sow the good seeds of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, perseverance and faith. Put God to the test. Sow daily those seeds, and you will reap the fruits, regardless of your age. Death is your enemy, not your friend. Don't wish it. It is the last enemy you will conquer with the power of God, provided that you sow the seeds of the fruit of the Spirit. "Behold, I shew you a mystery," Paul wrote under God's inspiration, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (I Cor. 15:51-55).
Be hard at work
When you diligently read and study God's Word, can't you see why you must be hard at work growing in grace and knowledge and in helping others to appreciate life, to be grateful to be alive? You won't be able to fulfill your tasks by keeping others at arm's length or by isolating yourself. Love is sharing and giving, and you, a begotten child of God, have much to share and to give. You are "the light of the world," said Christ. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16). You are "the salt of the earth," He also stated. Of what value is the salt if it loses its savor? It is your duty to let people around you know what it means to be truly Christian. The help you give your fellowmen, your encouraging example, your cheerful words, your contagious smiles, your confident attitude, your prayers and your faith — all this is well within your means. You are never too old to sow these good seeds. You have an important part to play in this world of confusion and darkness. Not too many people know why they were born or why they will die. But you do, and you have the opportunity to show them the way to live. Not too many have the ultimate goal you have. Isn't this a good enough reason for you to want to share it with others? You soon will be living in a different world — the world tomorrow — where all people from all walks of life will be able to receive God's Spirit. At that time, they too will know what true happiness is. They will experience the peace of mind and the joy that come from the Spirit of God. Today, they don't understand this or believe it. But you do! Your world tomorrow has already started here and now. Live it in your home, in your community, in the Church of God today!