From assisted living to memory or respite care, the team at Bethesda Gardens in Phoenix, AZ, is committed to providing holistic, faithful service to residents. We love to see residents in our community living a vibrant, joyful lifestyle, taking advantage of all the amenities offered to support wellness, socialization and mobility. We also know that spiritual health is as important for older adults of faith as mental and physical health is, which is why we offer some lessons from the epistle of Philippians below.
When writing to the gathering of believers at Philippi, Paul says that he is confident that "he who began a good work" in those people of faith will "carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)
Believers are not like cakes baking away in this world. There's not a moment on earth where someone has fully risen, 100% mature and complete in their faith and walk with Christ, and is ready to be frosted and put out on display on the bakery counter.
Instead, believers of all ages and maturity are constantly becoming, able to learn more about themselves, God and their relationship with Christ. If you're an older adult who has walked with Jesus for decades, it may be tempting to think you've come to the end of that path. That's especially true if you're making a major life change, such as moving into an assisted living community and away from your home neighborhood and church. But Paul notes that believers find continual growth, so look around and within you to discover opportunities for leaning into that good work going on inside you still.
Paul encourages the people at Philippi by telling them that what has happened to him is for God's glory. Paul has been arrested; he is either in prison or under some sort of house arrest. But instead of complaining about his chains, he holds them up to the Philippians in his letter and exalts what God has been able to do, even with this. Because of what God does through Paul and his situation, people throughout the palace, including guards and other prisoners, come to believe in Jesus.
God continues to use all types of situations and people today to share his love and the message of his Gospel. That includes little children, people in professional positions and older adults. Whether you're still living at home and teaching Sunday school in a local church or you've downsized into an assisted living apartment, God can and will work through you. Consider how meaningful a kind word might be to a neighbor or how you can demonstrate the love of Jesus to someone during meals. Consider also how God is showing you that he loves you through unexpected ways.
In Philippians 2:5, Paul says, "In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus." He goes on to explain that Jesus didn't act like a human king; he didn't take his divine authority in this world and use it to his advantage. Instead, Jesus humbles himself in service to others and ultimately gives his life in obedience to God's plan and out of love for God's creation.
That's a pretty tall order, and obviously, no person on earth is going to live up to Jesus in this capacity. But we can approach all our relationships trying to do so, asking ourselves what Jesus would want for us and the other person.
For older adults, this may mean walking in wisdom and support for younger people of faith. It may mean being the person who's able to forgive when others are hesitant to do so. But it can also mean knowing when someone else in your life is causing you to fall in your faith and realizing that you should rely on Jesus and not that person, even if that's scary.
This lesson from Philippians goes along with knowing when people aren't meant to be in your life, but it also has a ringing sound of freedom for older adults. Our confidence is not in flesh, which grows weak and may become ill as we get older. While you obviously want to treat your body as well as possible and care for it, the truth for seniors of faith is that ultimate confidence is in the Lord, and these present struggles are only temporary.
Finally, Paul reminds the Philippians to treat others with gentleness whenever possible and to pray instead of giving in to anxiety. These two directions are actually linked, if you think about them. When you're so caught up in your own anxieties and worries, it's easy to snap at others or unleash anger. That can lead to feelings of guilt (and potentially more anxiety) for you. It can also lead to hurt feelings or anxiety for the other person.
By placing your worries with Jesus and praying about them, you can reduce this cycle of anxiety and be more ready with a gentle response for family, friends, caregivers or neighbors.