“Even to your old age I am He, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.” (Isaiah 46: 4)
“…when you were a strong young man, you might have thought that He loved you for what you could do for Him; but, now you have become a poor worn-out pensioner, have you any better proof that He is an unchanging God, because He loves you when you can do so little for Him? I tell you, even your bodily pains are but proofs of His love; for He is taking down your old tenement stick by stick, and is building it up again in brighter worlds, never to be taken down any more.” (Spurgeon)
“Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.”
Albert Anker’s paintings from his 1880’s Swiss homeland capture my imagination. I’ve returned again and again to the Grandfather’s prayer and thought about the young boy, perched on chair-edge, earnest and strong, breaking from chores to read the Bible to his frail grandfather. Does the simple scene draw you in as it does me? I want to understand the grandson’s face as he concentrates, and the grandfather’s face as he contemplates.
Years on this time-bound earth have, for the grandfather, worn deep crevices into skin that once was as smooth as his grandsons. Time has weakened hands that once firmly gripped his own Bible. The young boy perches as if ready to launch out into the world. The grandfather launches no more.
The painting reminds me of talks I’ve had with friends who’ve walked this earth seven or eight decades. Talks about the ache of growing old. Physically, joints have begun to ache, and mentally, memory-neurons have begun to glitch. Emotionally, as the productive, everyone-needs-me season of life has passed by, the feeling of lost-strength becomes as clothing painful to wear.
The brief time on this earth nears its end, and as was actually true from the beginning, we bring nothing in our hand to God. We simply to the cross of Jesus cling.
And so here’s what Isaiah 46, Spurgeon’s words, the hymn, and the grandfather’s worn-out, yet stilled face convey to me: As a follower of Christ, God carries me even down to old age. We are secure in His protective arms; just as a mother guards and shelters her helpless newborn, just as she bears her baby in her womb and then carries her infant with both ferocious protection and gentle tenderness.
Even down to old age, when eyes fail and busy usefulness wanes, He proves His love. He bears and carries and saves. All that He might prepare His child for the brighter world to come.
Trust Him. Even to your old age.
Painting: Grandfather’s prayer by Albert Anker (1831-1910).
Quote from Charles Spurgeon’s sermon No. 81, preached on Isaiah 46 when he was only 22, and also preached at his grandfather’s commemoration service a couple days later, on May 27, 1856.
Line from the hymn Rock of Ages, by Augustus Toplady, 1740-1778.