I recently watched Bruce Springsteen’s appearance on David Letterman’s show in 1993. “Wow, that was a long time ago!” my wife commented when I showed her. Contrast how Springsteen looks and performs now. Which is better? “I think I like the older Springsteen better,” Char continued.
As a young man, I thought about hitting that sweet spot: the ideal time of life when one enjoys both the benefits of youth and the benefits of wisdom. I guessed it might be in one’s thirties, although I couldn’t be sure.
Youth comes with benefits. “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). When we’re young, we take time and energy for granted because we have so much of it. Scripture is clear: we have less time and energy than we think. Enjoy it while you have it. Understand how brief life is and allow it to inform your life.
Aging comes with drawbacks — read the rest of Ecclesiastes 12 — but it also comes with benefits if we live wisely. We can gain a crown of glory (Proverbs 16:31). Some of the people I respect most have a wisdom that’s been earned through suffering over decades of living.
2 Corinthians addresses what happens as we get older. Indeed, we do lose some of the benefits of youth. “Though our outer self is wasting away…” (2 Corinthians 4:16). Harsh, but true. As we get older, we can’t live like we did when we were younger. Not only that, but we’re running out of time. We’ll never accomplish everything we want. We become aware that our role in the world is changing, and nothing we do can stop what’s happening.
But losing the benefits of youth is only half the picture. “…our inner self is being renewed day by day,” Paul says. Something can happen internally in the life of the believer. As our bodies decay, our inner beings can be renewed. The soul of a believer can be strengthened at the same time that the body is weakened.
That’s the aspiration for every believer in Jesus.
I’m writing this for a couple of reasons.
First, if you’re young, enjoy your youth. Really enjoy it. It won’t last as long as you think. Now is the time to set multi-decade goals. If you’re a young preacher, set a course to preach the whole Bible over your lifetime. If you’re a reader, start now to read the top hundred books you want to have finished by the time you die. Learn some languages. Take some trips. Do hard things. And enjoy your youth and energy, your children, and the joys that go with it.
But I’m also writing with a vision for what can happen as we get older. One day we will lose the energy we had when we were young. We’ll realize one day that there’s not enough time left to accomplish everything we’d hoped to do. We won’t be in demand as much as we were before.
But in those days you just may enjoy the greatest depth of soul, the deepest reservoirs of love for others. In those days, as you grow in love for God, you just may have cultivated new levels of humility and gratitude. You just may have more to offer the world, not just in what you do but in who you are.
I’m grateful for youth and its benefits. I’m grateful for the sweet spot, when you get to enjoy some of the benefits of youth and the benefits of wisdom. But I’m also grateful for the benefits of a soul that’s becoming more alive to God, even as we lose the benefits of age. May we enjoy whatever season we’re in, and live with an eye to loving God more as time goes on so we’ll end up fruitful and joyful even when we’re old.