FLOURISH is a beautiful, bountiful, overflowing word. But can it be used to describe the chronologically challenged?
I'm titling my current book-in-progress STILL MORE! FLOURISHING ON MY SUMMIT. It is the third book in my “Land of MORE” Trilogy. I deliberately selected “flourishing” as the characteristic that could and should be applied to the latter season of one's Christian life, our advanced years.
Is that an anomaly? An impossible dream? A paradox? A contradiction? Not at all. God backs me up on this point.
FLOURISH used as a noun or a verb has many meanings. It can describe a dramatic, sweeping gesture that is grandiose or meant to impress. It can describe strokes or movements of the hand as in waving something about in the air, brandishing a sword or weapon or the like. Flourishing may describe flamboyant writing, with sweeping, ornamental or fanciful curves or lines, an artistic or graphic embellishment adding pen or brush lines to writing. For example initial letters of an important or historic document. It is the name of a rousing trumpet call or lively musical fanfare. It is used to indicate a period in history or life, like the finest or most flourishing state of life or beauty. It is the opposite of declining or failing or diminishing.
It can also indicate the healthy growth of a living thing—a plant, animal, or person. It describes a vigorous state of blooming or flowering or thriving luxuriantly. It is the opposite of dried, wilted, or fading. Flourishing may be used to describe a person in his prime, at the height of fame, excellence, influence, skill, etc. It can mean one who is successful and prosperous in multiple aspects.
Flourishing is also a positive psychology concept. “The term is applied to mentally healthy adults having high levels of emotional well-being; they are happy and satisfied; they tend to see their lives as having purpose; they accept themselves and are resilient, always growing and changing. Such people cope more effectively with chronic stress and other negative experiences. Flourishing is something that must be cultivated over the course of a lifetime.”
It is in this latter sense of abundant personhood that I explore its application in my book.
Some might be reluctant to apply the word “flourishing” to people in the summit years of their lives, the sunset years. The latter season of life is more often characterized by diminishing faculties, energy, and interests. I use that term in this book primarily to describe the inner, spiritual life of a Christian which can flourish regardless of the obvious natural physical decline brought on by the human aging process. I focus on positive attitudes and responses to circumstances and conditions both inside of us and around us.
I believe that flourishing in our advanced years depends largely on appropriating the power and wisdom and enabling of the Holy Spirit of God and applying it to our state in life. In the natural, of course we become weary, tired, and faint with physical and mental exhaustion because of the length and travails of the journey of life. But according to the God-inspired words of Isaiah the prophet, “Have you not known? Have you not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, faints not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increases strength” (40:28, 29). This passage of Scripture is the key to the flourishing life which God offers us as we live out our advanced years in Christ.
Doesn't God cut us any slack in our mature years? Is He realistic when He asks us to flourish during the latter period of our lives? God's expectation set forth in Psalm 92:12-14 is that “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of Jehovah; They shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and green.” God has made His case.
Most people including Christians tend to think of the latter season of one's life in terms of diminishing, decreasing, declining, and depreciating because of inevitable mortal physical decline. There is, in fact, an even longer list of “Ds”—and they are depressing. I could add diminution since after my recent physical checkup I measured more than an inch shorter than at my high school graduation. No wonder my spine is groaning, my lower back giving me pain, and my joints creaking when I “rise up” from my computer chair! I take comfort in knowing that my downsitting and my uprising are a concern to God. (Psalm 139:2)
God has created us with both a body and a spirit. The realistic dreaded “Ds” apply only to the flesh part of us and its natural process. Our transient mortal body is not made for permanent residence on Planet Earth. In contrast, the Lord intends that our eternal spirit should remain vigorous and youthful. “[God] satisfies your mouth [desire, life, years, old age, in other versions] with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's” (Psalm 103:5). The spirit is made of incorruptible stuff and its proving ground and formation is here on Earth. God intends for the spirit to increase in stamina, to keep gaining in strength and joy while developing and amplifying its eternal qualities.
God has inundated us with His sure promises of how we can live a “STILL MORE” life while living in our deteriorating bodies. At the same time, He does have incredible plans for our decaying, degenerating, and dilapidated “Earth Suits” of flesh. We anticipate the eventual resurrection of these bodies. God considers them precious and has made plans to reconstitute them into immortal but still recognizable glorified bodies that will never perish. They are not permanently cast off when we take our leave of this earthly life. According to our Christian faith, body and spirit will be reunited.
Because God works by the power of the Holy Spirit in our spirits, no matter in what season of life, our bodies are energized by Him to function in accordance with our age and state in life and in line with God's purposes for us. The Scriptures declare that “God knows our frame, that we are dust...” and His expectations for us at any age and stage are realistic. Ephesians 3:20 in the Amplified Paraphrased version expresses His promise: “Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do super-abundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams....” Other versions translate the degree of God's work in us as “do immeasurably more” and “do exceeding abundantly.”
Second Corinthians 9:8 expands the promise still further without limiting it to any season of life. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” And in verse 10, “...you will be enriched in everything for all liberality....” Not only “fully supplying” but “overflowing” and “surpassing” in other versions.