Matney: Retirement is scary

As I get older, now approaching my 70s, I don’t have quite the energy I once had. I tend to be slower, short of breath, overweight and my body hurts a little more than it used to.

Being a pastor, a lot of my work consists of sitting at my desk, reading, writing, studying, praying, making and answering phone calls and attending meetings. So, I don’t get enough exercise. Also, since I’m technically self-employed, and I don’t “punch the clock” for an employer anymore, I find that I can stay in my robe and house shoes a little longer, if I want to.

All of this is to say that retirement scares me. If I’m this sedentary, slow, sore and out of shape now, what will I be like when I don’t need to get up and get out of the house and, when I can sit all day in my robe and slippers?

What will I be like when I no longer pack and deliver food bags to other seniors, shovel snow in Minturn, help people move, paint, rake leaves, and do other odd jobs? What will I be like when I am no longer on my feet, preaching, teaching, playing guitar, singing, leading meetings, and working 10 and more hours every day?

At times I think, it might be nice to retire, slow down, play with the grandkids and spit and whittle with the old men in front of the general store and watch the world go by. But retirement scares me.

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I hope I’m not complaining too much. Honestly, I can’t complain at all. I feel very blessed to be serving my church, our seniors and others in our valley. I feel very blessed to sit and write a sermon or talk with people on the phone, or help in some other way. But I’m aware that age, pain, fear, disappointments, etc., can take over a person’s life and they just live from one doctor’s appointment to the next, one TV show to the next, and with little or no purpose in life.

Let me be clear: Aging and the hurtful and unfair actions of other people are beyond our control. So, in no way am I condemning anyone who needs to stay home and stay in bed, or who is dealing with grief, pain, depression, disappointments and feeling overwhelmed with life. What I am hoping to do is to encourage myself and others to not let pain, setbacks, fear, anger, unforgiveness, worry, anxiety and other maladies of the soul, keep us from enjoying a passion and purpose for living.

The apostle Paul could have had an excuse to just sit and do nothing. In 2 Corinthians 12:9 he wrote about a “thorn in the flesh” that tormented him. He prayed three times that God would remove it. But God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

So, even in our infirmities and in our weaknesses, God has a purpose and a plan for our lives, and it’s not so we can retire, sit and do nothing, and moan and groan until it’s our time to die.

In addition to his thorn in the flesh, there were many other hardships Paul had to deal with. It is hard to imagine all he went through to take the gospel to the known world of his day. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, he wrote, “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.”

He continued, “Five times I received the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I daily face concern for all the churches.

Paul did not let his discomfort keep him from his purpose. Even in pain and in prison, he wrote to his beloved churches. Of the 27 books in the New Testament, 13 or 14 of them are attributed to the apostle Paul. At least 4 of those books were written in prison. Paul’s writings are full of joy with no hint of self-pity or complaint. Paul wrote Philippians 1:21 from prison, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Paul had found his purpose for living. It was to please God and share the good news of salvation, forgiveness of sins and eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ. Friend, respectfully, what is your purpose for living? Does it satisfy you now and will it in eternity?

So, retirement scares me if I’m going to lose my purpose for living. But my prayer for you, dear friend, and for myself, is that the Lord will help us to discover, and never lose, our purpose for living. Respectfully, I have found it in following Jesus, and I highly recommend it.

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