I remember my 40th birthday some 20 years ago. I was moping to be honest.
It was my last full year of playing\managing a soft ball team that I loved to do. The league we played in disbanded because the grounds were being turned over to soccer of all things. It was time to disband I guess.
But the other issue was my declining physical condition. I had always had trouble with both feet do to a congenital condition which even by 1993 had limited my abilities to play ball.
I remember turning 40 and being somewhat down realizing that the “writing on the wall” was in evidence and I was no longer a young man and having some physical limitations was becoming an increasing reality.
Fast forward 20 years.
I’m now in ministry and as a job it’s a blessing for a lot of reasons but one is it’s fairly easy on my legs and feet. But having said that I am more aware than ever that all things being equal I’ve got maybe another 20 years before eternity.
That’s another 20 years of declining health. In fact as I write this I’m laid up with a bad knee that has osteo arthritis and probably a ligament tear. To top it off we’re in the middle of a major snowstorm and I have to reply on my son to come over and dig us out. It’s discouraging and it hurts my pride to reply on others to do what I usually do when it snows.
I’m not whining mind you and I’m perfectly aware we have friends much worse off than we. Some have cancer and others have multiple problems that seem to be stacking up. Aging it seems is an equal opportunity employer and sooner or later it catches us with everyone.
How is a Christian to view these things? What prevents the dark cloud of discouragement when one’s body no longer obeys?
I think there are many scriptural truths that apply, way too many for a blog post, but one that comes to mind is this one:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope  that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18-25 ESV)
I can identify with the groaning because I am groaning as part of the creation. But the question that comes to mind is what am I groaning about?
The easy answer is I’m groaning about my limitations and the associated pain. It’s not whining, just groaning because it hurts and it hurts to have to rely on others to do things I used to be able to do. And that’s fine and normal as far as it goes. It really only becomes a problem when we drift into self-pity because that’s like telling God “how could you let this happen to me” or ” “I don’t deserve this so my bitterness is justified.”
While I may be tempted toward those attitudes I have to consider what the Scripture says instead. Note what Paul says in verse 23.
He says we groan inwardly as we await the completion of Christ’s redemptive work in our bodies!
Now this is something quite different from just sitting around and groaning about aches and pains and limitations and slipping into bitterness and self-pity. This is a groaning of a different sort. It’s groaning because it seems the wait for the redemption of our bodies is just a bit too long and we are eager for it to happen.
This is a supernatural thought. On the surface it seems to be wishing for death and a release from the physical pains and while death does bring that release the verse promises much more than a release. It promises an actual redemption of the body, that is, a new body, that is free from corruption and decay.
In verse 24 Paul says “for in this hope we were saved” and in verse 25 he exhorts us to patience.
My problem is that I think too little on future glory and the redemption of a failing body and too much on present afflictions. That’s easy to do because I’m in the middle of that now and the tendency is to think “well, it’s not going to get any better” and it’s not, even though the doctors might “fix it” a little bit or at least reduce the pain but in the end the body will fall apart-guaranteed!
And that’s why Scripture exhorts us to make a decision to change focus because changing focus gives hope in the midst of suffering. It’s having faith in God’s promise that he will reverse the effects of the fall for those that trust Christ and eagerly await the redemption of our pitiful bodies. It also helps us live one day at a time worrying about today’s troubles today and just doing the best we can with whatever limitations that have been assigned by God.
The baby born in a manger came to make things right. Yes, he came to redeem those that belong to him but he also came to restore a fallen creation to it’s former state of glory. And that includes a body that is increasingly aware of its limitations.
Thank God for the promise and thank God for Jesus and the hope he provides!