Glad to be grey? From God’s perspective there are lots of reasons you should be.

In my own growing old, I am hugely encouraged by God’s outstanding promise in Isaiah 46:4 ‘Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.’

As someone who started turning grey in his late thirties, and is now ‘a whiter shade of pale’ – as the sixties group Procol Harum sang, this has been good news for a long time.

I understand the need for some to keep their hair a more youthful colour, but I rest content in the words of Proverbs 20:29 – ‘The glory of young men is their strength, grey hair is the splendour of the old.’

I know a man who has recently retired from being a Police Officer. Despite having an interesting and varied job, he could not wait to get out. He counted down the months, then the days, then the hours until he finally left. He was free!

I met him a few weeks later. ‘I have nothing to do, I am so bored. I think I’ll write a book,’ he told me. I did not have the heart to tell him what that would mean…. Getting older is more than sitting around doing nothing, as he is discovering: ‘

Are we, with our grey hair, to be like the retired policeman, bored and without purpose? The answer is a resounding ‘No!’ We must wake up to this vital point: God is not finished with us.

This could not be clearer than from the Psalmist’s special and unique news for our later years: ‘The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming ‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him’. Psalm 92:12-15.

What does it mean to have our youth renewed like an eagle’s in our later years of grey hair? The words of that Psalm remind us that in our youth we were ‘fresh and green’ – and we are to stay that way.

The Psalmist is talking about how we grew and flourished, not just physically and mentally, but spiritually. We lived in the Springtime – and it is to stay that way even though our bodies may tell us it is now Autumn and heading for a desolate, leafless Winter.

Though our hair colour may change, our spiritual life is not to be a never-ending spiral of decline. If you don’t believe that, come back again and again to these remarkable verses where God says we are to ‘flourish like a palm tree’.

On my visits to equatorial Africa I have seen the different varieties of palms, enjoying the burning heat which attacks them, swaying in the tropical storms which batter them, yet producing delicious fruit.

That is how the ‘righteous’ are to be in their later lives. They are to stand tall like the mighty cedars of Lebanon. In our lives we can do that, in our inmost beings, even when age bends our backs double.

We can do this because, the Psalmist says, we are ‘planted in the house of the Lord’ and we ‘flourish in the courts of our God.’ Stick in close with God the Father, through the presence in your life of Jesus Christ the Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit, and you will be fresh and green!

And this is all for a reason. The Psalmist says, ‘They will still bear fruit in old age’ – the verb ‘will’ is a strong word. The expression ‘old wrinklies’ is not particularly pleasant! By contrast, the ‘oldies’ of Psalm 92 ‘stay fresh and green’ and ‘bear fruit’.

Part of that fruit is we give a powerful testimony proclaiming, as the Psalmist says, ‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him’.

There is also more about God and grey hair in the book of Proverbs: ‘Grey hair is a crown of splendour; it is attained by a righteous life’ Proverbs 20:29. ‘The glory of young men is their strength, grey hair is the splendour of the old! Proverbs 20:29.

This tells us our older lives are to show that God gives us a wisdom from himself as we age. As Job 12:12 says, ‘Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?’

God’s purpose for us is to show, as we get older, that he gives us his strength and, through our experiences of him, his wisdom. ‘Grey hair’ should mean we have this wisdom through the experience of life.

We are therefore, both to bear fruit and also to use our wisdom to give counsel and leadership. Perhaps not in the formal way of church leaders, but by our loving and caring advice and encouragement.

God has a purpose for each one of us, whatever our age or the colour of our hair. There is no moment in our lives when he draws a line and says, ‘That’s it.

Adapted from Ian Knox’s new book Finishing Well: A God’s eye view of ageing (SPCK) – an engaging exploration of how, in our later years, we are not only to be blessed but also to be a blessing.

Ian Knox: Ian has spent most of his life in evangelism and teaching. Though officially ‘retired’, he has an active preaching ministry across the UK and Africa and recently became Canon Missioner at Uganda’s All Saints Cathedral in the Diocese of Lango. He’s been married to Ruth for over 40 years, with four sons and ten grandchildren. They live in rural Northumbria.

The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years"

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife