Awakening to the Senior Years

by Dr. James Willingham

The senior years can come as quite a shock, when one had ill health and all that implies.  One reason why I have not written much lately has been that very fact.  In the last two months my wife was in the hospital twice, and then I felt like I should have been there several times during that period.  Seems like providence, while a welcome doctrine when it is favorable, has another side, when it involves hardship, pain, and suffering.  Life is a deuce mixture of the good and the bad.  Praising God for the good is an easy task.  Praising Him for the bad is another question, and yet it is precisely what the Christian Faith has advocated with its centerpiece being the cross of Christ.  There we see the most depressing, the most miserable, the most adverse providence possible, and it turned out to bring to pass the greatest good.

The same teaching is presented to us in the life of the Old Testament character, Joseph.  His brothers sold him into slavery, the wife of his master lied about him, and the Pharaoh’s cupbearer forgot his promise to Joseph for two years, but in the end Joseph summed it up rather succinctly: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good to bring it to pass as it is this day to save much people alive.”(Gen.50:20).  Having face many such traumatic events in my life time of nearly seventy five years, I have often had recourse to the cross of Christ and to his allegorical shadow in the Old Testament, Joseph. for help in dealing with such matters.



About dr. james willingham

B.S. Ed. Lincoln Univ., Mo., '67; M.A. (American Social and Intellectual History) (GPA 3.7) Morehead State Univ., Ky. '71; work toward a Ph.D. in American and Black History, 6 hrs. Univ. of South Carolina and 12 at Columbia Univ., NY, Spring and Summer of '71 respectively; M.Div. '74; D. Min. '76 Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, NC; M.A. '88 Liberty Univ., Va, (counseling). Honors: Phi Alpha theta - the International Honor Society of Historians; Pi Gamma Mu - The National Honor Society of Social Scientists Graduate Assistant, Morehead State, '69-70; Lecture: The Stanley Elkins Thesis: A Critique. Summer Afternoon Lecture Series Columbia University, Summer '71; Instructor, South Carolina State College, 1970-72 (taught 4-5 sections in American History. taught one course in Philosophy, Spring of '71), Adjunct faculty" Richmond Community College, Rockingham, NC 1985, taught two quarters of Political Science. Thesis for M.A. in American Social & Intellectual History: "The Baptists & Ministerial Qualifications:1750-1850." Prospectus for Doctoral Dissertation at Columbia University, Summer of '71, "The Baptists and Slavery." Instructor Seminary Extension: Greater Gaston Baptist Association, Gastonia, NC, 2002-2004. Taught Systematic Theology, Baptist History, Church History, Preaching, Isaiah, Hebrews Introduction to New Testament Theology. Pastorates: Pilot Knob Baptist Church, Belle, Mo., '62-64; Elston Baptist Church, Elston, Mo., '65-66; Gum Springs Baptist Church, Moncure, NC., '72-83; Heritage Baptist Church, Rockingham, NC, '84-96; Interim, Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Casar, NC, 1/2001-3/2001. Chairman, Historical Committee, Sandy Creek Baptist Association, '77=81; Chairman, Historical Committee, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, '85-86. Annual Sermon, Sandy Creek Association, 1981 Lecture: "The Genius of Orthodoxy: Eldresses." BSCNC. Delivered as Chairman of the Committee Fall of '85. Play: The Mirror of Our Past. Visual History of Jersey Baptist Church
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4 Responses to Awakening to the Senior Years

  1. Christiane Smith says:


    I read your responses to David Miller’s interesting post on SBCvoices, but could not comment there as I am not permitted to do so, but I would like to share my response to DAVID with you and to get your response to my thoughts on the topic David wrote about, if it’s okay. (if not, please delete this, and no hard feelings, as I value your decision on what is best. Here is what I wrote to DAVID MILLER:

    “I am familiar with Bart Barber’s opinion of my Church and of his contempt for ‘animism’, which is something he says and you say that the Church ‘permits’.

    Is it possible that the Church abstains from contempt for the faith of others in a way that fundamentalists cannot understand? Is is possible that the Church incorporates what is of meaning in the faith of others and finds in it something of value? . . . It is well-known the contempt with which conservative fundamentalist-evangelicals have for the Earth and its creatures . . . but not all Christians or people of faith share that contempt. Reason: they see heaping contempt on the Earth and its creatures as heaping contempt on the Creator.

    Goodness, even Job in his Chapter 12 understood that the living things of the Earth bore witness to God when all else failed in the flawed understandings of men:

    “7”But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. 8″Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; And let the fish of the sea declare to you. 9″Who among all these does not know That the Hand of the LORD has done this?”

    And some conservative Christians still incorporate the holy days of Catholicism into their worship practices: Christmas and Easter, both of which ARE connected to pagan observances of the past peoples who were converted to Christianity . . .

    seems to me that fundamentalism ever lost it’s contempt for others, it would no longer exist . . .

    maybe that is something to think about . . .

    In the mean time, I bless the work of any people seeking to teach others about Christos Kyrios, the Lord of all . . . He Who holds together all in Creation and is the life of all living things, animals, and human; He Who bonds together the members of His Body in the Communion of Saints, living and dead. He Who will on the last day call forth from the Earth and the Sea those who will rise to live again a life of which He alone has always been Lord. God Bless.”

  2. Dear Christiane:
    I did not know you had been cut off from SBC Voices. My time has been taken up with caring for my wife and with my own health.
    I have never known you to be hateful, mean or vicious or any such thing, so it comes as a surprise.

    As to the issues raised in your comments, let me point out that the problems over church differences have a long history. Within my life time, I have had church members threatened by violence by Catholics, because they opposed a state school bus bill and a friend of mine in another country had her father subjected to the tender mercies of an Iron Maiden, one of the inventions of the Inquisition. The Roman Catholic Church is so big, and it has big problems. However, brothers Barber and Miller seem to have forgotten that Southern Baptist have had a miserable record concerning slavery and segregation, and, like the Catholics who are trying to clean up their situations, we Baptists are also seeking to do the same.

    This stuff begins with the New Testament. Just consider Judas, being an Apostle, and his betrayal of our Lord or Peter, being from your perspective the head of the church after our Lord and from mine simply one of the 12 foundation stones, a small rock as opposed to our Lord being the large rock on which the church is built, who denied his Lord three times and cursed. We all, being sinners, have our failures and shortcomings.

    The main issue between RCs and SBCs today are mainly doctrinal. Now I am running out of strength for typing. I have to fix lunch for my wife (who is an invalid) and for myself. Talking by phone could be a way to cover these matters. Do you have a web site to which I could send my email and, if you wish, we could then exchange phone numbers). Thank you for your confidence in me. My aim is always to be open and above board, to speak openly about what I believe, to disagree when it seems appropriate (without being disagreeable, though I have been that sometimes). God grant you grace is my prayer. Look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely

  3. Christiane Smith says:

    Dear Dr. Willingham,
    thank you for your kind response. I am so very sorry for having troubled you when you are so busy caring for your wife and also so very weary. I will pray for you both tonight, and during vigil in the morning. You have never been unkind or less than gentlemanly in your remarks and responses but I have often communicated poorly on DAVID’s blog, so I have no hard feelings over being ‘cut off’ from SBC voices. I still ‘comment’ there, for DAVID’s sake, but it is not printed. That’s okay and I am at peace with it.

    I hope your wife feels better soon. I will pray. No need to call or send an email, as your kind reply says much, maybe more than you know, about your strong faith in Our Lord. God Bless you.

  4. I typed an answer and then lost it. Thank you Christiane for your kind and encouraging remarks. I only wish I was half as kindly, etc., as you think. It is perhaps due to the fact that the Lord sent me a lady who has been my wife for 46 years and five months. A soft spoken person, she has, alas, become unable to speak well due to a stroke some years ago. God is the giver of such helpmate I praise His holy name. God grant you grace, all grace is my prayer. Sincerely.

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