How a Purposeful Retirement can Mark Our Most Fruitful Season of Christian Service

By Ross Piper
(CEO, Christian Super)

You may have heard it said that ‘life begins at forty’ or ‘life begins at fifty’ or ‘life begins at… well insert whatever age you happen to be turning that year’! I’ve always appreciated the concept of seasons in life. As I look back over my professional, personal and faith journey I can clearly see how the concept of seasons has found expression in my life.

Looking back, I can also see where there has been purpose and meaning in the various parts of my own journey. In many ways these experiences have been equipping me for the opportunities to come (even though I may not have been aware at the time).

As we think about seasons in life, the latter stages of a person’s career and moving into retirement can be a challenging time, particularly where a person has a strong sense of identity closely linked with professional vocation. With the commencement of retirement there can be a sense of an ending, or conclusion of ‘valued’ work. There is, however, a different perspective that is worthy of consideration.

Retirement as a new beginning

I’m always encouraged when I hear stories of people for whom the commencement of retirement is a new beginning, and that God works in their lives through retirement in an unexpected and profound way. In Richard Rohr’s book Falling Upwards – a Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, he says, “great love is always a discovery, a revelation, a wonderful surprise, a falling into “something” much bigger and deeper that is literally beyond us and larger than us.”

For people who grasp this reality, retirement does not need to be a time of being diminished by the conclusion of ‘paid’ work, but rather the commencement of a new and rich season of growth in faith and service.

Retirement as a time of service

Throughout all that we experience in our lives, God is working to refine our character. In this regard retirement can be a season where the fruits of this character are most abundantly expressed and used. The experience and perspective of a lifetime of service can be of great benefit to those around us, especially younger generations.

We are challenged in scripture to embrace a posture of humility and surrender to where and who God wants us to be, for His purposes. This applies in all seasons of life, but in my view especially in retirement where there are so many opportunities to leverage and apply the skills and character developed in earlier seasons of our lives.

Retirement as a time for love and generosity

There is a perspective on resources with this also. In retirement we aspire to have the means to live well, and to serve and love those around us. A great quote from Benjamin Franklin says, “Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young”. Whilst there can certainly be challenges in retirement, it can also be a season of extraordinary generosity, both in financial and non-financial terms.

We are all called and challenged to love in all seasons of our lives. The increased flexibilty of time, experience or other resources during retirement means that this can be a rich season of fruitful service. A passage from Psalm 92, verses 12-14, speaks beautifully to this:

But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.
For they are transplanted to the LORD’s own house.
They flourish in the courts of our God.
Even in old age they will still produce fruit;
they will remain vital and green.
They will declare, “The LORD is just! He is my rock!

God has a plan and purpose for all of us in every season of life, and there is something very special about the season of retirement. Be open to this and you may be surprised at the many ways He will work through you!