The just shall die by faith...

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Thinking about a friend's death at his own hand, it has struck me that he was the first to face a question that many, many of my baby-boomer generation will face: shall we age and die by faith?

Shall we submit to the suffering the Lord makes us stewards of, "working out our salvation with fear and trembling (knowing) it is God who is at work (within us), both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12,13)? Or shall we be self-willed, spurning God's tool of suffering and making ourselves masters of our own destiny?

Make no mistake about it--this question will become personal as we suffer the breakdown of our bodies and feel the weight of old age as Solomon here describes it:

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, "I have no delight in them"; before the sun and the light, the moon and the stars are darkened, and clouds return after the rain; in the day that the watchmen of the house tremble, and mighty men stoop, the grinding ones stand idle because they are few, and those who look through windows grow dim; and the doors on the street are shut as the sound of the grinding mill is low, and one will arise at the sound of the bird, and all the daughters of song will sing softly. Furthermore, men are afraid of a high place and of terrors on the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags himself along, and the caperberry is ineffective. For man goes to his eternal home while mourners go about in the street. Remember Him before the silver cord is broken and the golden bowl is crushed, the pitcher by the well is shattered and the wheel at the cistern is crushed; then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12:1-7)

Old age isn't pretty or fun, but in the wise hands of our Heavenly Father it is a path to holiness.

So thinking on my friend's crisis of faith, and realizing how easily I could walk his same path, this past week I went into the living room where my Aunt Elaine spends most of her days and I thanked her for continuing to live.

Aunt Elaine is eighty-nine years old. She has a dry, East Coast sense of humor having lived in Queens (Flushing) most of her life. She's ready with a cheerful word for everyone, contributing occasional ripostes to the spicy exchanges at our dinner table. Seemingly out of nowhere, they're always funny (and sometimes, hilarious). Elaine is a joy and has blessed our home.

"Well, not everyone has life that easy at that age," you say? Yes, we can all find reason to nurse our wounds and consider our life more tragic than other's lives.

But Aunt Elaine can't stand by herself. Each morning she waits patiently for Mary Lee to get her out of bed; each night she waits patiently for Mary Lee to lift her up out of the couch and help her to bed. Never married, with no children, we are her family. And when we run around on errands, leaving her slightly longer than expected, Elaine is patient, saying "Don't you worry about me!"

So yes, this past week it struck me that I/we needed to honor Aunt Elaine's obedience, continuing to live when she would much rather die and go to be with the Lord. That's why I thanked her for continuing to live.

We must honor our fathers and mothers who are ending well.

What about you? When you've had a stroke, are incontinent, and all the health care professionals are reminding your family that seventy-five percent of health care dollars are spent in the final ninety days of life (or whatever the current stat is), are you going to stop eating while justifying yourself before a holy God with the words, "I just don't want to be a burden to my family?"

C. Everett Koop said many years ago, "For every Baby Doe, there will be ten thousand Grandma and Grandpa Does." Will you be one of those Grandma or Grandpa Does who starves himself to death? Or, however decrepit your mind and body, will you submit to your Heavenly Father until He calls you home?