by Lynda Elliott, Life Coach
My husband and I just retired from ministry. I feel totally lost. After having my life revolve around ministry for so many years, I don’t know what to do with myself. Almost all of my friends were from church. My children live far away. How do I transition into this new stage of life?
This stage can be very difficult. Although I am still coaching, my husband retired last year and our adjustment has taken work. After all, a 40-year-pattern was broken.
A friend became a widow last year. Others retire and relocate to exotic places. Some get emotionally stuck and are miserable. The rest of your life and ministry is important and can be the most meaningful. These suggestions may help as you transition.
1. Go back to the point of origin in your life in Christ, which was total surrender. The elements of your life are different now so a fresh surrender may be needed.
2. Take some quiet time. Very few of us could retire and leap into a well-defined, new future. Leisure and solitude may be uncomfortable at first. To hear God’s voice, other voices and sounds, including your own, must be turned down. A weary body needs time to rest.
Begin taking short personal retreats. I have a friend who began to spend her days outside in the woods behind her home. She packed a lunch and took a blanket so she could nap under a tree. She took long walks and read books, refreshing her soul.
3. We all approach our latter years in different ways, depending on the example of our parents or other loved ones. Both of my parents were seriously ill most of their last years, so even though I am very healthy, as I approach these years myself, I encountered some fears that I needed God’s help to overcome.
I have another friend whose parents lived long and enjoyable lives into their late eighties. Upon retirement, she began taking art lessons, tap dancing lessons, and traveled just as her parents had done. Many others do different types of ministry than they have done in the past.
4. During a transition there is usually a time of refining. Last year God took me through a season of pruning. It was not an enjoyable experience. I was reminded of Hebrews 12:11 which says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Now I am experiencing results, and am grateful for both the process and the progress.
When in ministry for years, we sometimes get overgrowth in certain areas and undergrowth in others. Some of our “branches” need to be broken if we are going to remain healthy and useable for Him (John 15:2). If God takes you through such a period, it’s preparation so that you can embrace a new calling. So look ahead with great expectation!
5. When many of us started work, it meant less time for husbands, children, siblings and friends. This may be a time to renew relationships that may have suffered some neglect in the past. It is possible that God has given you more time for your own personal growth, enjoyment, and well- being. His gifts come in many ways during this time of life. Check them out!
6. Finally, remember that Heaven is now our destination so look forward. I worked with a woman who was pretty uptight. She read Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven. One day she told me, “My entire perception of life has changed since I read that book.” Giving me an example, she said, “I bought a new car and marveled at its beauty as I parked at the mall. When I came out, there was a ding in the front door. Ordinarily I would have been very angry, but on that day I just shrugged and thought, ‘It’s not that important. I won’t be driving it forever, anyway.’”
If you’re over 55, you’ve entered the second half of life. Psalm 92:14-15a says, “[Growing in grace] they shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap [of spiritual vitality] and [rich in the] verdure [of trust, love, and contentment]. [They are living memorials] to show that the Lord is upright and faithful to His promises.” That can be you!