Western society often idolizes youth and marginalizes the elderly. In 2019, people in the United States spent over 53 billion dollars on anti-aging products. This reflects widespread anxiety about growing older. We fear the loss of significant work, the deterioration of our health, and the ability to be heard and valued.
While we do not know who wrote Psalm 71, it was someone advanced in years (vv. 9, 18). He fears being disrespected and shamed by others (vv. 1, 4, 10–11). He recognizes the loss of physical strength (v. 9) and feels vulnerable and dependent upon others (vv. 4, 11, 18). Yet this is someone who has walked with God. “For you have been my hope, Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth” (v. 5). In the midst of lamenting his situation, the Psalmist models several ways to process these fears and anxieties.
First, he looks back over his life and recognizes that God has been faithful in the past and can be trusted with the future (vv. 6, 14, 15, 17). Long experience has taught him of God’s faithfulness. He can take comfort in God’s continued care.
Second, he knows he has an important purpose in life. He has a responsibility to relay what God has done to the next generation. He asks God not to forsake him, “till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come” (v. 18). He can testify to God’s might and power in a unique way, given the perspective long years of walking with God have given him. By the end of the psalm, he has worked through his lament and turned instead to joyful praise (vv. 22–24).
>> Today’s reading has encouragement for both the young and old. The young should learn from the experience and wisdom of older saints. Those who are more advanced in years should communicate God’s goodness and grace to the next generation.
Thank God that followers of Jesus of any age can serve Him and bless others. May Psalm 71 encourage you, whether you are young or old. Ask for the Holy Spirit’s power to use your age and to surrender your whole life to God’s will.