This has been a great study for these folks; and besides the wisdom I have garnered from the famed evangelist, I have also learned from the class members. It has been fun watching their faces light up when I read something that Dr. Graham says which resonates with their experience.
For example, I remember the look of pleased astonishment on their faces when I read to them the list of important “old people” in the Bible. To name just a few, Abraham was 100 years old when he finally fathered his long-promised heir, Isaac. Moses was 80 years old when God called him to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt. Joshua continued serving as leader for the people after Moses until he was 110!
After that list, Graham added these words: “Old age didn’t take them by surprise; they knew that if God gave them a long life, then he still would be with them, and he would have a reason for keeping them here. For them, growing old was not something to be denied or dreaded; it was to be embraced as part of God’s plan for their lives.”
I could almost see the wheels turning in their heads: "Hey, maybe God does have a purpose for me yet. Maybe he isn’t finished with me yet."
Of course, for most of the members of my class, age has taken a toll on them physically. One lady whose eyesight is practically gone nodded appreciatively when I read this line from the aging evangelist: “I often wonder if God, in his sovereignty, allows the eyesight of the aged to cast a dim view of the here and now so that we may focus our spiritual eyes on the ever-after.”
But they could identify with the honesty of Dr. Graham’s word: “I can’t say that I have liked growing older. At times I wish I could still do everything I once did — but I can’t. I wish I didn’t have to face the infirmities and uncertainties that seem to be a part of this stage of life — but I do.”
It was at that point that I had a flashback to a few minutes earlier when we were singing the hymn, “It is Well with My Soul.” As we sang that song, I looked around the room and saw several walkers, a wheelchair and a cane. But it was truly an amazing sight! These people who were restricted and limited in their mobility were singing that song from the bottom of their hearts!
Immediately, it hit me. Their bodies may not have been well, but their souls were! They were singing the truth of the gospel. It was indeed well with their souls!
Many of us do not have the physical challenges that the people in my Bible study have. However, we all face difficulties. Injuries, illnesses, accidents, grief, sorrows, losses — they all take place in the course of our lives.
Jesus stated it well when he said, “In this world you will have troubles.” (John 16:33) Stuff happens.
As my grandmother would often say, “We’re not in heaven yet.” True, but we can still smile through the tears. And we can sing through the pain, “It is well with my soul!”
The soul, that part of us that is the essence of who we are, can be well even if our bodies aren’t. The soul, that part of us that longs for that which is eternal, can be at peace even when our world is in a mess.
Over the years, I’ve seen women lose their hair in their fight against cancer, and I’ve seen men lose their strength and robust physique after massive heart attacks. But I have also seen in some — not all — a confidence, an assurance that it was all right. Like the apostle Paul, that whether they lived or whether they died, they were the Lord’s, and that is all that mattered. It was well with their souls.
Is it well with your soul? I know of no other way to have true peace in our lives than to let God into it. And the best way to do that is by listening to Jesus. Jesus was no ordinary human being. When he spoke, he spoke on behalf of God himself. And this Jesus, so honest and forthright, tells us, “In this world you will have troubles!” But he adds to that these words, “But take heart, for I have overcome the world.”
Life can be tough. Aging is a challenge for all of us. But whatever the challenge is that you are facing, rest assured you don’t have to face it alone.
God cares, and his Son Jesus says this: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you shall find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
— By the Rev. John Koedyker, pastor of Word of Hope Church in Fruitport.