Billy Graham on Growing Old

"Old is authentic. Old is genuine. Old is valuable."  Billy Graham




Just as I began typing this post on my Mac laptop, I discovered the sad news that Steve Jobs has passed away at the age of 56. He was stricken with a rare form of pancreatic cancer over seven years ago and survived longer than most who are diagnosed with this awful disease. The world has truly been blessed by his genius abilities, and we pray for those who will dearly miss Steve Jobs.

For those of us who live long enough to reach old age, Billy Graham shares what he has learned in his memoir entitled Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well. It will be available on October 18.

The website for the Billy Graham Library provides the following description of Graham’s book:

“Billy Graham once said, ‘I had been taught all of my life how to die, but no one had ever taught me how to grow old.’

Now, he wants to offer hard-earned advice for growing old gracefully. Nearing Home: Life, Faith and Finishing Well will hit bookstands on October 18. In this narrative, Mr. Graham will take readers along on his story of growing older—and growing closer to Christ.

Readers will gain Mr. Graham’s biblical perspective of our purpose while we still live on Earth, learn to cope with fears and struggles, and grow closer to God in the midst of life’s challenges as we age.“Life is seldom easy as we grow older, but old age has its special joys—the joy of time with family and friends, the joy of freedom from responsibilities we once had, the joy of savoring the little things we once overlooked,” Mr. Graham wrote.

‘But most of all, as we learn to trust every day into His hands, the golden years can be a time of growing closer to Christ. And that is life’s greatest joy.’”

Earlier this year Christianity Today submitted questions for the ninety-two year old Graham to answer. Here are a couple of those questions, along with Graham’s responses. (To read the entire article, go to this link)

"What advice would you give to people who are aging?

First, accept it as part of God's plan for your life, and thank him every day for the gift of that day. We've come to look on old age as something to be dreaded—and it's true that it isn't easy. I can't honestly say that I like being old—not being able to do most of the things I used to do, for example, and being more dependent on others, and facing physical challenges that I know will only get worse. Old age can be a lonely time also—children scattered, spouse and friends gone.

But God has a reason for keeping us here (even if we don't always understand it), and we need to recover the Bible's understanding of life and longevity as gifts from God—and therefore as something good. Several times the Bible mentions people who died "at a good old age"—an interesting phrase (emphasis added). So part of my advice is to learn to be content, and that only comes as we accept each day as a gift from God and commit it into his hands. Paul's words are true at every stage of life, but especially as we grow older: "Godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Tim. 6:6).

The other piece of advice I'd give is the other side of the coin, so to speak. It's this: As we grow older we should focus not only on the present, but more and more on Heaven. This world, with all of its pains and sorrows and burdens, isn't our final home. If we know Christ, we know we have "an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you" (1 Pet. 1:4). I know it won't be long before I'll be going there, and I look forward to that day. Heaven gives us hope, and makes our present burdens easier to bear.

What would you say to children who have aging parents?

When we're young we usually don't think much about growing old, or about our parents growing old either—not until something forces us to think about it. But it will happen, if they live long enough. So the first thing I'd say to those whose parents are growing older is to be prepared for it, and to accept whatever responsibilities it brings you.

Then be patient with them. They may not be able to do everything they once did, but that doesn't mean they're necessarily helpless or incompetent. And be alert to their needs—including their emotional and spiritual needs. Sometimes they just need to know that you're there, and that you care. Be sensitive also…”

In advance of this book release, the secular media has featured favorable articles about Billy Graham.  A recent article in USA Today included this excerpt: (link)

The trigger for this book was a comment he made in a 2006 interview: "I had been taught all of my life how to die, but no one had ever taught me how to grow old."

No one prepares you for loneliness, for pain, for the grief of losing your soul mate, he now writes. When his wife, Ruth, died in June 2007, he was stunned that she died before he did. He had never envisioned his life without her.

Graham says he wanted the book to be the handbook he never had — spiritual, pragmatic and fearless.

He writes: "The Bible says that God has a reason for keeping us here; if He didn't, He would take us to Heaven far sooner."

Since everyone, not just the old, is going to die, readers at any age, he writes, should be busy with discerning why they're still alive and find the spiritual strength to face debilitation and loss. Graham admits, "I can't truthfully say that I have liked growing older."

The Washington Post featured a heart-warming article entitled:  "In Sunset of life, Billy Graham reflects on growing old". (link)

Here is a brief excerpt from that article:

" 'All my life I was taught how to die as a Christian, but no one ever taught me how I ought to live in the years before I die,' he writes in the introduction. 'I wish they had because I am an old man now and believe me, it’s not easy.'

So, a month before he turns 93, Graham has become a teacher of sorts in How to Grow Old 101."

We want to encourage you to read this article because it includes wonderful snippets from Graham's book on growing older, along with some sage advice.  The Post article concludes with these touching words:

"In the book, Graham writes that he looks forward to death because he’s eager to be reunited with his wife. In the meantime, he appreciates the “touches of Ruth” in each room of his house.

“Before long Ruth and I will be reunited in heaven,” he writes. “More than ever, I look forward to that day!' "

As some of you know, Dee and I each have daughters who graduated from college last May.  When our daughters were high school seniors, they had a wonderful Bible teacher (at their Christian school) who happens to be married to one of Billy Graham's granddaughters.  We will forever be grateful to him for the important teaching they received prior to college, and we are overjoyed to report that they have continually kept the faith.   

We are grateful that Billy Grahsm has had the stamina to write his 30th book, and we pray it will be an encouragement for those who are approaching their golden years.


Billy Graham on Growing Old — 8 Comments

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    Perhaps this will clear up some of what you are wondering.

    From the Christianity Today article cited in the post:

    “If you could, would you go back and do anything differently?

    Yes, of course. I’d spend more time at home with my family, and I’d study more and preach less. I wouldn’t have taken so many speaking engagements, including some of the things I did over the years that I probably didn’t really need to do—weddings and funerals and building dedications, things like that. Whenever I counsel someone who feels called to be an evangelist, I always urge them to guard their time and not feel like they have to do everything.

    I also would have steered clear of politics. I’m grateful for the opportunities God gave me to minister to people in high places; people in power have spiritual and personal needs like everyone else, and often they have no one to talk to. But looking back I know I sometimes crossed the line, and I wouldn’t do that now.”

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    Eagle —

    Iteresting question. So, JFK was elected in 1960, & Billy Graham would have been 41. So perhaps he was 38, 39, or 40 when he did all that catholic-as-president-prevention business.

    I’m 44, and I like to think I’m on the cutting edge of informed & enlightened thought, but then I remember all the dumb things I used to think and do just a few years ago. So at this rate, with every passing decade this sophisticated 44th year of mine will serve to be more and more of an embarrasment to me.

    While I’m ever learning and growing (like everyone) & enjoying the discoveries very much, I’m never as savvy as I think I am. This helps keep me out of smug mode.

    Guess what I’m saying is that while 38, 39, and 40 are a far cry from the naive idealism of the recent college grad, you’re still quite green around the edges.

    I highly suspect that Billy Graham would agree with any negative portrayal of his doings at that time.

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    Billy said, 25 years ago or so, he was SHOCKED by the brevity of life. I find that statement to be evermore true. I ask my friend all the time, “How did we get from young to aging? Where did the years go?”
    And then the realization of Solomon; what ever you accomplished was really nothing, soon forgotten.

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    Oh, I don’t think it’s quite like that (“whatever you accomplished was really nothing, soon forgotten”).

    We leave a much deeper fingerprint on the lives of others than we’d ever dream. We’re each of us so unique, a kaleidoscope of personality, talents, skills, interests, the unique sound of voice, our certain flair… virtual carvings ever being fashioned by life. We each have a unique and interesting fragrance to us.

    My experience is that most people are very good. Decent, honest, wanting to do the right thing (of course not without failing). While we all leave eachother bruised from time to time, I think we impact people for the better much more than we’d ever expect.

    There have been times when a certain sincere hello from someone, a kind word, even kind eyes looking into my eyes for a brief moment had the precision of a jeweler’s chisel on me, fracturing the lonely burden i was carrying. And it made all the difference for me at that moment. Which in turn made all the difference for how that morning went, which influenced that afternoon with my kids for the better. The fact that we all had fun at the dinner table and enjoyed each other’s company & said good night to each other with smiles, hugs, and kisses can be traced back to a number of things that happened that day, not the least of which being kindness from a stranger.

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    Growing old is mandatory…

    Growing up is optional… 😉 😉

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    Anybody here remember the old Kansas song “Dust in the Wind”? It fits this topic to a tee.

    And I think Elastigirl is onto something. I don’t think Jesus gives a rat’s ass what you believed about him or told others to believe about him, he’s more interested in how you practiced him.

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    I grew up in a non-religious home in Salem, Massachusetts. However, my dad used to like to watch Billy Graham in the television. I first heard the Gospel while listening to his crusades. It was the only time I would hear it presented since none of my family or friends understood the faith. I hold a certain fondness in my heart for this evangelical Lion in Winter.

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    I’m doing everything to avoid being old but it is honestly the one thing you can’t avoid if you like being here on Earth.

    Somehow, I don’t think I’m going to live to old age but it’s nice to know that I’ll have such sage wisdom to help deal with it should I be proven wrong.