“I am God, the God of your father,” the voice said, “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make your family a great nation. I will go with you down to Egypt, and I will bring you back again. You will die in Egypt, but Joseph will be with you to close your eyes.” Genesis 46:3-4 NLT
It is human to be afraid of the unknown and I need to hold fast to the truth that God’s plans are beyond my human understanding and wildest imagination.1 I will never fully understand the reasons for the Ukraine war or the Covid-19 pandemic. The tragedies of life lead me to face the hard truths of life and the reality of sin, evil and death. As Benjamin Franklin reminded the American people:
“Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
As I journey into the mid autumn of my life, old age looms as a time of losses, vulnerability and uncertainty. It is a time “to live into our belovedness with courage.”2 The story of Jacob going to Egypt to spend his last days in a place away from the Promised Land encourages me to trust in God’s plans for my old age.
Jacob had never expected to see his favourite son, Joseph alive. He was led to believe, by Joseph’s ten brothers, that Joseph may have been killed by a wild animal.3 Jacob could not believe his ears when he was subsequently told by his sons that Joseph was in fact alive and the governor of Egypt. When he was finally convinced that Joseph was alive, Jacob worshiped God by offering a sacrifice at Beersheba before he set out for Egypt. It was then that he received a vision from God who told him:
“I am the God of your father. Don’t be afraid of going down to Egypt. I am going to make you a great nation there. I’ll go with you down to Egypt; I’ll also bring you back here. And when you die, Joseph will be with you; with his own hand he’ll close your eyes.”4
As Jacob worshiped God, he was given the promise of God’s presence to go down to Egypt and that God will make his family into a great nation there. He was also assured that Joseph will be at his death bed. The story of Jacob’s dysfunctional family is a revelation of how God is always turning evil to good. The evil actions of Joseph’s brothers were used by God to save the Jews during the famine.5 The story of Jacob and Joseph is a beautiful story to encourage us to build our trust in a loving God who is always in control and whose ways are beyond our comprehension.
In the winter of life, I need the courage that comes from a confident faith in God. I can take heart in God’s promise not to be afraid of the future for Christ came to fulfill God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The good news of Easter is that Christ died, Christ has risen and Christ will come again. God has sown the mustard seed of the resurrection power of Christ in my heart – Christ is in me and the Holy Spirit is with me.
Old age is a golden opportunity to follow the example of John the Baptist to decrease so that Christ can increase and others can behold Christ, the Lamb of God as their Saviour.6 Power and influence corrupt. We will be tempted to use our knowledge to increase our status and reputation. We are living in a world of sorrows that tempts to draw away from God:
“What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrows awaits the person who does the tempting”7
Contemplative prayer is a spiritual discipline to overcome pride. Like Jacob and Joseph, we may be led through times of great love and great suffering so that we may be fruitful in our deaths. In contemplative prayer, we rest in the faithfulness of God so that we can see life and death from God’s perspective and not from our limited human minds. Old age is a blessing when we see it as a time of letting go and preparing to return home to God. We have the victory over death when death is no longer the wages of sin – we are dead to sin and alive to God.8 Until we cross the river of death, life is worth living because Christ lives in us:
“And then one day, I’ll cross that river
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain
And then as death gives way to victory
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He reigns
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth a living just because He lives.”9
Lord, thank You for the promise of Your Presence in the winter of life.
- What is God’s will for me in the winter of my life?
- How can I find the courage to face the uncertainties in old age?
- How am I to live in the winter of life so that my death may bear fruit in my loved ones?
Song of Praise:
Because He Lives
- Isaiah 55:8, NLT
- Kristen E. Vincent, We Are Beloved: A Lenten Journey with Protestant Prayer Beads (Upper Room Books, 2019). Quoted in New Every Morning | April 17, 2022.
- Genesis 37:31-35
- Genesis 46:3-4 NLT
- Genesis 50:19-21
- John 1:29-34, NLT
- Matthew 18:7, NLT
- Romans 6:11,23
- Because He Lives