“Let Me Grow Lovely Growing Old”

In life, there can be things that are hard to understand but nevertheless are true. The word “paradox” is defined by Webster as “a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true.”

In my readings this morning, I noticed a paradox that is hard to understand but must be embraced because even though it goes against common sense, it is true. Paul says this in 2 Corinthians 4:16,

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self his being renewed day by day.”

As certain as the reality of the general decline of our bodies so should be the truth that our inner soul is getting more beautiful. The verb translated “being renewed” is in the passive voice meaning that the subject (you and I) receive the action of the verb rather than perform it. In this case, it is a divine passive with the implied agent being God Himself. God is the one at work in us, day by day making us more like him over time. This to me is a paradox because I am also decaying daily on the outside while this happens! I must not lose heart in the process of aging because I am still being made new on the inside by God Himself if I am cooperating with his work in me rather than fighting it.

Lenski beautifully describes this process when he says,

With perfect calmness Paul can watch the destruction of his outer man. What if his enemies hasten the process, yea, bring it to a sudden end by means of a violent death! He loses nothing. The inner man blossoms into new youth, beauty, and strength day by day. This inner renewal is not hindered but is only helped by the tribulation that assails the outer man. These ‘bloody roses’ have the sweetest odor. These enemies are only defeating their own end; instead of causing Paul to grow discouraged, his elation is increased.”

Barclay also writes very powerfully and gives us a good reminder of what should be happening in our lives as we age,

“All through life it must happen that a man’s bodily strength fades away, but all through life it ought to happen that a man’s soul keeps growing. The sufferings which leave a man with a weakened body may be the very things which strengthen the sinews of his soul. It was the prayer of the poet, “Let me grow lovely growing old.” From the physical point of view life may be a slow but inevitable slipping down the slope that leads to death. But from the spiritual point of view life is a climbing up the hill that leads to the presence of God. No man need fear the years, for they bring him nearer, not to death, but to God.”

Father, as I age, may you help me not look at my physical decline as evidence of uselessness. Instead, may you give me the perspective that the exact opposite is happening in me as you make me new again. As I live under your leadership, follow your Word and depend on upon your Spirit, you are performing a miraculous change within me. As the poet said, “Let me grow lovely growing old.”

Following Jesus with you,

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