A Meditation on Psalm 71

Kevin J Youngblood

Do not cast me off in the time of old age;

forsake me not when my strength is spent.

10 For my enemies speak concerning me;

those who watch for my life consult together

11 and say, “God has forsaken him;

pursue and seize him,

for there is none to deliver him.” (Psalm 71:9-11)

So even to old age and gray hairs,

O God, do not forsake me,

until I proclaim your might to another generation,

your power to all those to come. (Psalm 71:18)

I’ve been getting a lot of mail from AARP lately. What a lovely reminder of how old I am! As I reflect on my own aging and the future prospect of retirement, I am tempted to get depressed. Our cultural myths about aging have already sunk deep into my psyche. Fears of being sidelined, becoming outdated and passe, replaced with a younger model, “sent out to pasture” as it were fill my head. This is when I realized that, along with the rest of my culture, I have been bowing down before the idol of youth.

Psalm 71 is a helpful corrective to my misgivings about aging. It would seem that the psalmist shares some of my concerns about growing old, but for some rather different reasons. First of all, the psalmist is keenly aware that the enemy is biding his time until the psalmist is elderly and weak, prone to fatigue and likely to surrender the spiritual fight. The psalmist, however, sees this as an opportunity for a greater display of divine power. He prays the divine promise that God will never leave or forsake him, even in his old age (Deut 31:6, 8). This is key. So strong is our cultural idolatry to youth, that the world and all of its institutions will forsake us when we are perceived no longer to be useful in advancing its agenda. Unfortunately, this is far too often true of the church as well. We do not so much worship God as we worship youth. God, however, is never more present nor his power ever more available than when we embrace the weakness of aging. Finally in old age, IF we grow wiser and not simply grow older, we fully abandon our reliance on the flesh and open ourselves to the full experience of the Spirit. God’s power is perfected in weakness and the psalmist seems to anticipate the apostle Paul’s great insight as he seeks God’s assurance that God will indeed work through the weakness of his old age to bring about unprecedented victory in his spiritual life.

Second of all, the psalmist has some very specific and worthy goals for his golden years. He is not simply seeking to retire and live out the remainder his years in a beachside condo in Florida. Rather, he wants to devote the twilight of his life to proclaim God’s power and faithfulness to generations to come. The psalmist reminds me that I do not want my twilight years to sneak up on me. I want to be strategic and think creatively about ways that my declining physical strength can be offset by increased faith, wisdom, and reliance on the Spirit. Far from diminishing my productivity, my golden years have the potential of exponentially multiplying my productivity if I only entrust them to God and think realistically but strategically about how to capitalize on newly discovered weaknesses – the prerequisite for experiencing genuine divine power. This, however, is a Copernican sized paradigm shift from typical worldly ways of thinking about retirement and aging.

I ran across a Cotton Mather quote recently that expresses better than I can the radical kind of thinking about age and aging that I am talking about. He said, “My usefulness was the last idol I was willing to give up; But now I thank the Lord, I can part with that also, and am content to be anything or nothing, so that His wise and holy will may be done!” It is with such an attitude as this that I want to approach old age.


As I age, give me the grace to embrace the changes brought on by the ravages of time realizing that these only create more openings for your divine power to be on display in me. Give me a vision for my golden years that is worthy of your kingdom and sure to be a blessing to generations to come. Lord Jesus, you never had the opportunity to experience old age and therefore, we do not have your example of how to age to the glory of God. What we do have, however, is the example of your strategic use of time and your sense of divine priorities. Please impart these insights to us as we seek to follow you ever more closely in every stage of life. Holy Spirit, use my ever-increasing weaknesses as I embrace them, as beachheads for your infinite power. Give me the humility and grace to know when it is time to relinquish responsibilities into younger hands and to transition into roles of support and consultation – a transition that exceedingly few human beings handle well and on time.