It was the 19th century poet, Robert Browning, who wrote the famous words “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.”
Those words came to mind one day as I watched the on-going commitment of my aging parents. Well into their 80’s, they continue their life-long journey as they grow old together. The pace has slowed, but the love has deepened. The ways of youth have been replaced with the wisdom of age. It’s not an easy transition, but they, like many before them, face it with dignity. Out of these inevitable changes comes an obvious question. Where does the best come in?
I had never read Browning’s poem, so my entire perspective was based on these two verses. I thought it might be interesting to research it and see what the whole of his work concluded. It was an eye-opener. The poem, entitled “Rabbi Ben Ezra”, was my first clue that I didn’t have all the facts. The more I read, the more I discovered a vastly different message than I anticipated. The poem was written from the perspective of a fellow traveler in mankind’s journey. It addressed the nature and brevity of life with a singular focus … trust in the sovereignty of God! Who knew? Who cares? Stay with me.
Though his work is long and complex, Browning dealt with reality and hope right from the first stanza:
“Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned.
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”
It’s easy to recognize why the first two verses were extracted. They aptly depict a life-long commitment between a husband and wife. But despite its application, the poem was penned so that humanity might understand its end purpose. It occurred to me that Browning’s words are not the only ones that have been taken out of context. Mankind does it with God on a regular basis and cherry-picking verses from the Bible puts us at a disadvantage.
We think we know something without ever actually taking time to investigate the matter completely. Unlike ignorance of a poem, however, ignorance of God’s Word makes us vulnerable to folly, for we end up accepting fractions of truth when God expects the whole truth. And that is exactly what I received in my search for the answer to my question “Where does the best come in?” Robert Browning had insight, but God has answers.
“Listen to me … you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray 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.” Isaiah 46:4
The journey of life is, indeed, brief. Our youth passes much faster than we anticipate and age confronts with physical limitations that counter spiritual willingness. Even so, Robert Browning was right ~ “Our times are in His hand”. Filled with that truth, we are able to face life with the optimism of hope. The One who made us has promised not only to remain with us, but to sustain us in every stage of life. And, in the fullness of time, when the body can endure no longer, believers have been promised rescue from death to life; eternal life free from the decline of age, the frustration of limitations, the pain of suffering, the agony of sorrow and the sting of tears. 2 Corinthians 5:17 assures us “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
Perhaps you have become aware of time’s passing and feel the effects that it brings. You may be thinking the best is behind you. These promises seem impossible because your understanding of Jesus lies in a verse or two. That can all change. He invites you to more than hearsay. He invites you to know Him.
Come as you are. Confess your sin, your doubts and confusion. Ask His forgiveness and receive Him as Savior. That simple faith will start you on a heaven-bound journey. There will be some bumps along the way, but you won’t be alone. The Lord will be with you, His Word will be your guide in every change. And, if you are given many days, even in your old age you will have peace in the assurance that, truly, the best is yet to be.