“Rich in Years: Finding Peace and Purpose in Long Life” by Johann Christoph Arnold

Book Review by Georgina Hoddle RN

5 MINUTE READ

This book is a window into ageing and how much God loves and accepts us as we grow older. However, society (Christians included) often looks at old age with little regard, and certainly not as a blessing

The poetry, songs and Scriptures cited in Rich in Years draw you into a world filled with both blessings and responsibilities. Knowledge of God can lead us into an era of new adventure with grace and a good laugh. Nearing death does not mean fighting an enemy. Christ has preceded us, He is victorious. So if we accept God’s will for us to live a long life, we can consider it a gift.

The author writes that we elderly have a responsibility to accept this gift as a way of encouraging others to find the peace of Christ. This replaces focussing on the loss of activities and pleasures in which we no longer partake as our faculties and physical strength fail. In old age we have more time to work for the Kingdom of God here on earth, living Jesus’ words, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and putting into action Jesus final commandment to us, “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Matt.22:37–39).

Rich in Years challenges the concept that ageing isn’t funny. Can it be funny? In the words of the author’s friend, Pete Seeger, in his song Get Up and Go2, “Yes, it can.”

However, it’s not a laughing matter when one’s mobility is lost. As Bette Davis said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies” (quoted in Rich in Years as a bumper sticker!3). There certainly are trials, death of loved ones, illness and perhaps the onset of some form of dementia. While it’s difficult to face our own mortality, the insights in this book address our fears and help us live with some of our regrets or failures, and the desire to have perhaps done things differently – perhaps loved others more. There is no time for bitterness or dwelling on how we’ve messed up our lives. By allowing God’s grace to carry our burdens, we can make the most of our remaining time and spend it giving thanks for what we have experienced.

“While it’s difficult to face our own mortality, the insights in this book address our fears and help us live with some of our regrets or failures, and the desire to have perhaps done things differently…”

There are many stories of people from very diverse backgrounds, stories of ageing, accepting change, overcoming loneliness, finding purpose, keeping the faith, as well as moving forward and finding peace. Saying goodbye and moving on are indicative of starting something new, even in old age. Many of the Scriptures quoted confirm that eternity awaits those who believe in Jesus Christ. Several chapters speak of the promise of everlasting life which can be lived now with joy and peace, fellowship and abundance: “Deep down we all long for that.”4

The content of Rich in Years is easily sourced by virtue of the exhaustive index of names of people referenced; from the author’s own family, to poets and Popes, community workers and cardinals, singers and writers. Martin Luther King Jr and Mother Teresa feature, amongst others, as illustrious yet humble people met by the author.

The Author

Johann Christoph Arnold has won many awards for his books of which more than a million copies have been sold, printed in more than 20 languages. Arnold is senior pastor of Bruderhof, a movement of Christian Communities. He started the American public high school program called Breaking the Cycle5 which aims to promote reconciliation through forgiveness. For more on the author, you are encouraged to read Rich in Years.

Reviewer’s note: The acclaim this book has received, from many also known to our Australian Christian community such as Megan Best and Tim Costello, inspired me to read it cover to cover one wet weekend. The power had failed and the only light available came from my computer screen; soon these words appeared :“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”(Matt. 11:28). These words provided the light required to move on from a position of stasis in the early days of my retirement. Rich in Years, indeed.


Georgina Hoddle RN 
Georgina Hoddle is a registered nurse (RN) with experience in orthopaedics and trauma, ageing and disability. She is currently retiring from her part-time role as NSW Health Authorised Nurse Immuniser and now only works casually in Aged Care. Georgina graduated from Macquarie University with a Master in Applied Linguistics (TESOL; 2011) and is using her language skills to write book reviews and articles of current interest. Georgina is currently Vice President of Nurses Christian Fellowship and trains Christian healthcare workers to be witnesses to Jesus Christ through the Saline Process.


References:

  1. Copyright © 2013 by Plough Publishing House. All rights reserved. Cover photo: ©Corbis Images. Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. ISBN: 978-0-87486-807-4. Price: approx. $22. Contact info.aus@plough.com for bulk orders and enquiries. 
  2. “Old Age is Golden” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdNQt4a6f7g 
  3. “Ageing is not for sissies” p.17
  4. p.148.
  5. http://www.breakingthecycle.com

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