By Pastor Alan Langstaff/12.31.15
Anyone who knows me or has heard me speak will know that this is something I often say. It is from Robert Browning’s poem –
‘Grow old along with me.
The best is yet to be.
The last of life for which the first was made.
Our times are in His hand.
Who saith, ‘A whole I planned.
Youth shows but half, trust God! sell all, not be afraid.’
Robert Browning was a nineteen century British poet and playwright whose mastery of dramatic prose made him one of the foremost Victorian poets.
So, over the years, I have quoted Browning’s words ‘The Best is Yet to Be.’ I discovered, of course, that others too, have quoted these words.
CORRIE TEN BOOM
Corrie Ten Boom, whose story of helping Jews in World War II in Holland and and her time in a concentration camp as told in the book ‘The Hiding Place’ and also a film of the same name, evidently used to say this phrase quite often.
A friend of mine Rabbi Ed Rothman shared his own contact with Corrie in an email he sent me recently –
I do know that Corrie said that, as I had a personal audience with her & Ruth Graham when I was a brand new believer, I lived in Hollywood and hung out at the Hollywood Free Paper, run by Duane Pedersen, a missionary from Soul’s Harbor. He was well connected with all of the big name Christian leaders including Kathryn Kuhlman & Chuck Smith.
We had a weekly Bible Study at his headquarters and who walks in with Duane Pedersen, but this gray haired saint of a woman, accompanied by Billy Graham’s wife. I was 18 years old, a hippie, with long hair & a long beard, wearing bib overalls and we all sat at Corrie’s feet over an hour and soaked in the presence of Jesus! I remember her closing words, “The best is yet to be!”
I heard her on many recordings and those were always her closing words for any talk I heard her give. So being a Corrie Ten-Boom aficionado & president of her non-existent Minneapolis Fan Club, I think I can speak with some authority on this subject, for what it’s worth?
I heard Corrie speak at the Youth With A Mission outreach to the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972, but while I remember other things she said, I don’t recall hearing that phrase, even though she probably said it.
When my older brother Ken, a retired school principal and lay preacher in the Methodist church died in 2014, I discovered from his family in Australia that this was a phrase he also used. Indeed, it is on his grave marker and it will be on mine. I understand now that it was evidently something that our Scottish mother said that must have stuck in our minds, even though, in my case, I had forgotten where the phrase had come from. The phrase is obviously part of our family heritage.
WHAT IT MEANS TO ME
The phrase ‘The Best is Yet to Be’ means four things –
Life may me tough at times, but for the Christian there is always hope for a better tomorrow, that indeed, the best is yet to be. Hope is essential to living. If you lose hope, your hope in God, your hope regarding the future, you are a defeated soul. So this phrase is a constant declaration of my hope that is centered in Jesus and a faith to believe for the future, that ‘the best is yet to be.’ Romans 5:5 reminds us that ‘hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who was given to us.’ Hope and the Holy Spirit go together. Likewise, Paul prays in Ephesians 1:18 that ‘we may know the hope of our calling.’ We can confidently hope that ‘the best is yet to be.’
There is a phrase in the poem that is quite insightful and meaningful, where it states, ‘The last of life for which the first was made. A whole I planned, Youth shows but half, trust God, sell all, not be afraid.’ It is a reminder that all that has happened in our life so often is a preparation for the ultimate calling of God. We see this with Jesus. Very little is known of His early life, but it obviously was a preparation for the final three years of His life and ministry. It is a challenge and an encouragement to those of us who are no longer young, that there is still a calling yet to be fulfilled. Indeed, there are many examples in history of people who accomplished great things in the later part of their lives. It is like being in the last quarter, or even the last two minutes of a football game and still giving it all you have to finish strong.
The invitation in the poem is ‘Grow old with me.’ Something we do together; so this is a declaration regarding Dorothy and me together. I often say Dorothy and I have shared one hundred and fourteen years of married life together (at this stage in 2015). You ought to see the looks on people’s faces as they try to work that one out. I usually have to explain that it means fifty seven years for Dorothy and fifty seven years for me. ‘The Best is Yet to Be’ is for me a declaration that yes, we have been a long way down the path of life together, but it is not finished yet. There are still things God wants us to believe for and experience. As Browning puts it, it’s ‘the last of life for which the first was made.’ We can look back on so many wonderful experiences as we have followed the Lord seeking to live in obedience and faith (see Dorothy’s book Called Together), but we also believe that God is not finished with us yet. ‘The Best is Yet to Be.’
There is another dimension of the phrase. It is heaven – the destination for those who believe in Jesus and have made Him their Lord and Savior. Indeed, the glorious promise that one day we will be in heaven and enjoy His presence forever is, itself, beckoning. Paul felt that tug when he wrote, ‘For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain (i.e. more Christ) . . . For I am pressed between the two having a desire to depart and be with Christ which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.’ (Philippians 1:21 and 23) Heaven is the ultimate meaning of ‘The Best is Yet to Be.’
There it is ‘The Best is Yet to Be.’ I pray that, for you, as you hear or read these words, hope and your calling will be strong in your heart regarding what lies ahead; that if you are united, as Dorothy and I are, you will believe that God is not finished with you yet, rather that there is more for you to do together; and finally to look to that glorious day when we are in heaven and truly ‘The Best is Yet to Be’ because ‘our times are in His hands.’