To talk is an essential part of daily life. When friends and family get together, the most frequent thing we do is talk! It’s especially important not to forget this as we get older. Especially if we live on our own, we may not realise that we are not talking enough.
My doctor once sent me to a hospital consultant about my gruff voice. Surrounded by medical students, she examined my throat and asked, ‘Do you live on your own?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘my wife died a few years ago.’
‘I think,’ she responded, ‘the change in your voice is probably because you do not use it as you did when your wife was with you.’ That made sense. Some days I may not see anyone with whom to talk. She then asked, ‘Do you sing?’
‘Yes, I enjoy it, especially hymns.’ ‘Well,’ she said, ‘sing when you can or read something aloud!’ I now read a hymn every morning and if I can remember the tune I will sing aloud. My neighbour has not complained, though no choir would have me! I also pray aloud and that aids my concentration as well as my voice.
Likewise, if I am last in a queue in a supermarket, I will often chat to those who serve me at the till. For example, I know quite a lot about one of the older assistants at our local food-store: she has a dog, two sons, a daughter and her husband is an architect! Young assistants, often students working part-time, respond to being asked what their hopes and ambitions are, and appreciate interest being shown in them. What is more, I have used my voice and made friends!
A challenging instrument
The tongue is that part of our human body that can do the most good or the most harm. James urges, ‘Do not slander one another’ (James 4:11). Gossiping, malicious talk and saying things that ought not to be said at all come naturally to fallen human nature. When we hear something bad of another person, the instinctive reaction often is to think, ‘There’s no smoke without fire.’ However, to slander is to imitate the evil one whose name, diablos, means ‘slanderer’. It belongs to our old life and we need to be rid of it (Ephesians 4:31; James 1:21). Not only will our fellowship with God be hindered by it, but it will ruin our testimony to the saving power of our Lord Jesus Christ.
One group of Christians can easily slip into the snare of slandering another, especially if they are of a different denomination or have a varying emphasis on some secondary point of doctrine. We need to be on our guard whenever we hear the question, ‘Have you heard what is going on at present at such and such a church?’
In contrast, words can have the ability to build up, stimulate and encourage. Many are weighed down by responsibilities. Human relationships are sometimes in chaos, and kind words have not been the norm. Consequently there are broken marriages, families and lives. Our privilege is to share our Saviour’s invitation: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28). Many days provide the opportunity to use words to encourage someone.
A unique type of talking
There is an unrivalled kind of talking: ‘Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honoured his name’ (Malachi 3:16). Believers possess a remarkable fellowship through talking together of the Lord whom they delight to honour. At the centre of their conversation is the Lord Himself: what He has done for them, and all that He is to them. By talking together about Him, our souls are refreshed, and our determination to honour Him is renewed and strengthened.
There is another unique type of talking: talking to yourself! I am not suggesting that it is something you do in public! But it is a good habit in a number of ways.
Psalm 103 begins with David talking to his soul: ‘Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.’ After meditating on God’s character, David ends the psalm by talking to himself again: ‘Praise the Lord, O my soul’ (Psalm 103:22). We have reason to do the same.
Psalms 42 and 43 illustrate the psalmist talking to himself when depressed: ‘Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?’ On three occasions the same question is asked (Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5). After each he exercises his mind in remembering God’s goodness to him in the past, resulting in praise and renewed trust in God (Psalm 42:11; 43:5).
Preaching on Psalm 42, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones asked, ‘Have you realised that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?’ If I am honest, I can feel sorry for myself when my legs hurt, probably on account of my old age, diabetes and, perhaps, medication that I am on. This is the time to talk to myself: ‘Hold on a bit! You have had those legs for a long time, longer than anyone would drive the same car! Think of when you were able to walk and run. Think of the disabled people you know.’ After talking to myself, I feel altogether different – I am filled with thankfulness and the desire to pray for others who have much more to contend with than I do.
Why is talking so important in old age?
- It will be honouring to God if people remember us when we die for the good things we have said rather than the bad.
- In few areas of life can we be more of an example or encouragement than when we speak with a God-instructed tongue.
- It is a great privilege to encourage others: ‘Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel’ (Prov. 20:15).
This article was originally published as ‘T is for Talk’ in A good old age: An A to Z of loving and following the Lord Jesus in later years, by 10publishing, a division of 10ofthose.com