Beautiful in Old Age

As we celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, I find myself thinking about what it takes for someone to be beautiful even in their old age. I’ve concluded there’s no better example than Sarah, the wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac.

In addition to being beautiful in her later years, Sarah also was fruitful and honoring – rare qualities indeed, especially in today’s world. Let’s look at how this was possible:

      BEAUTIFUL: If a woman is attractive in her youth, we often attribute it to genetics. But in order to be beautiful in old age, the source is usually the person’s attitude, character, and countenance.

In Genesis 20, we see Sarah as a beautiful woman nearing 90 years old – so attractive that King Abimelech attempted to take her as his wife! What a stunning and flabbergasting story. Wouldn’t any woman today want to look like that at age 90?

We know Sarah’s secret wasn’t Botox beauty, so it must have been something more. Somehow she developed an inner radiance that transcended her age.

Peter explained this when describing how Sarah remained so beautiful:

Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful (1 Peter 3:3-5 NLT).

Let’s be honest: Peter’s advice seems woefully out of step with the times in which we live.

  • Beauty that comes from within? What a quaint idea!
  • Unfading beauty, based on a woman’s spirit rather than her body or her attire? Much too idealistic!

However, this is exactly the kind of beauty Sarah displayed. Not only was it “precious to God,” but it also was appealing to people. While priceless, this rare beauty was something money couldn’t buy. In the midst of the trials, disappointments, transitions, and injustices of Sarah’s life, her joyful, peaceful countenance enabled her to remain gorgeous beyond her years.

      FRUITFUL: When Sarah overheard the angels tell Abraham she would bear him a son at age 90, she laughed. Wouldn’t you?

Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son” (Genesis 18:13-14 NLT).

Have you ever laughed at the promises God made to you? I bet you have, because His promises always require something more than your natural ability. Divine promises are worthless unless accompanied by divine enablement.

So notice: Although it’s wonderful that Sarah was beautiful in her senior years, don’t forget that God also supernaturally enabled her to be fruitful, bearing Isaac when she was 90. How does this apply to us? While there’s no guarantee our fruitfulness in life will include having children, it will always include having an impact on the lives of others.

That’s why I’m grieved whenever I meet elderly people who’ve given up on having an impact. Don’t they know someone they can share the Gospel with or encourage? Don’t they have children, grandchildren, or friends who could profit from their wisdom?

Look at what the psalmist said about this:

Those who are planted in the house of the Lord
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bear fruit in old age;
They shall be fresh and flourishing
(Psalm 92:13-14 NKJV).

Although I don’t know how much longer I will live, I want to “still bear fruit in old age.” Even in my waning years, I hope I’ll remain “fresh and flourishing.”  

In the case of Sarah, her greatest “fruitfulness” didn’t occur until she was age 90. What a powerful lesson for us, encouraging us that our most meaningful impact may still be years ahead.

      HONORING: Peter’s description of Sarah includes another statement that is completely mind-blowing when applied to today’s culture:

Our “mother,” Sarah, devoted herself to her husband, Abraham, and even called him “master” (1 Peter 3:6 TPT).

At the moment, I’m not in the mood for a debate about marriage and gender roles, but instead I want to point out a larger principle here: Even in her old age, Sarah was still able to show honor, respect, and gratitude to her husband and others.

This is no small matter! If you took time to interview people at a retirement center, you would soon discover that there are two kinds of people there. Some are the sweetest, kindest people you would ever want to meet. They are full of stories about God’s goodness and the great life they’ve had. As they reflect on people they’ve known along the way – or on their current life in the retirement center – they express tremendous gratitude.

However, you’ll meet others who are cynical, bitter, and cranky in their old age. They will tell you endless stories of life’s injustice and the people who’ve done them wrong. Instead of showing honor and gratitude to those around them, they act as if they’re the center of the universe, entitled to have people serve them.

Sarah could have been like this second group. She had ample reason to be resentful toward her husband’s twists and turns, like the time he felt led to leave their homeland without any clear destination in sight! And how could she forgive his shenanigan in calling her his “sister” so the king wouldn’t kill him in order to take Sarah for himself?

Like Sarah, we all have choices to make about whether we will maintain a good attitude or bad attitude…express gratitude or grumble…honor others or harbor a critical spirit. Let us choose wisely!

My prayer is that we will be like Sarah – beautiful, fruitful, and honoring in our old age. And no matter what our current age might be, today is a great day to start cultivating those three wonderful qualities.