A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford

She’s an old woman now, very old, and cantankerous. She’s a Christian, but unreasonable in her demands. Querulous. Complaining. Ungrateful. Destructive. Causes conflict between family members. Her adult children have truly tried their best to please her and meet her needs. But she talks about nothing but how terrible her aches and pains are, how unfair her doctors are, how insensitive her children are to her needs. They know she’s misused her prescribed pain medicines so long that nothing the doctor could prescribe will satisfy her. They have spent money they couldn’t afford, to care for her, and they have not begrudged it.

She wasn’t always this unreasonable. Old age has seemed to deaden her virtues and sharpen her failings. Her children are committed Christians. They know what the Word of God says, and they have truly have tried to obey it:

Honor your father and mother”
which is the first commandment with promise:
That it may be well with you,
and you may live long on the earth.”Ephesians 6:2,3
And this command:

Listen to your father, who gave you life,
and do not despise your mother when she is old. —Proverbs 23:22

But now, finally, her children have given up. They’ll continue to pay their mother’s bills. They will take her to her doctors’ appointments, see she has food and other needs met. They will not, for the peace of their own families, go to her home, bring her into their homes. nor accept phone calls from her. I certainly sympathize with them and understand their decision.

Nevertheless, may I plead this old woman’s cause? I do not defend her misuse of medications. I do not condone her self-centered attitude. I don’t excuse her behavior because of her pain. (Mother used to say, “No matter how badly you hurt, you must still be courteous.”) The fact that the Scripture says specifically, “Do not despise your mother when she is old” hints at the fact that old age brings stress and fears that a young person cannot possibly comprehend.

Though expenses mount, in old age, there are diminishing resources. Once smart, perceptive, capable, in control, they now find it difficult to reason sensibly. That once strong, healthy, energetic body is feeble, unreliable, ill. Until you have gotten old yourself, you cannot imagine how frightening that is.

That’s why King Solomon wrote, in Ecclesiastes 12:1,2:

“Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor Him in your youth before you grow old and no longer enjoy living. It will be too late then to remember Him, when the light of the sun and moon and stars is dim to your old eyes, and there is no silver lining left among the clouds.
“Your limbs will tremble with age, and your strong legs will grow weak. Your teeth will be too few to do their work, and you will be blind . . . . Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don’t wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well.”

So I plead for your loving forgiveness for that stubborn, crabby old woman whom God has given into your care. Love her like Jesus loves you. Forgive her as Jesus forgives you.