You may be sitting in an empty nest now...pondering what to do in this next chapter...after decades of raising kids and striving to make ends meet. For many, retirement culminates in a lifelong dream. The end of the race and hope for the perpetual vacation. But is that biblical?
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. – Romans 12:1
The second act may seem like a finale to a sacrificial life. But for some, an empty nest can turn life upside down—after losing close family interaction, and with it, a sense of purpose. Regardless of our awareness, life is always in motion, advancing forward or backward. Standing still is not an option. God commanded Christians to serve, and with that, our duty does not end, even in retirement. The Bible tells us each of us received a gift, and we are to use it to serve one another (1 Peter 4:10). The second act may not be as busy as former years, but it can be rewarding.
Even when retirement downtime comes tied in a bow of "loving the freedom," you may soon long for structure and purpose in your day. You may even miss the old days when you were chained to that timeclock. Resist the impulse to shift back. Look for new opportunities to grow.
It's our fundamental desire to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. So, what's next? You've raised a family and scaled the career ladder, and it's a wrap. With so many changes, how do we maintain joy in the second act? Attitude is everything.
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Pivot Your Focus toward God
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:13
Start with the main thing. With extra time on our hands, redirecting our focus toward God will open our hearts to seek His guidance and unleash joy not found in awards and material success. Allocate time for daily soul recovery. Enjoy the stillness of your new unhurried routine. Read your Bible daily and meditate on scripture. Spend more time talking with God.
We are formed in His image, and the more time we spend with Him, the more we will resemble our maker. One of the most attractive benefits of maturing is that we grow into ourselves, our true identity. You have unique spiritual gifts to offer the world. What makes you different?
It's often in our senior years we recognize that we can't do or be everything—and for once, we don't care. We no longer fear what everyone thinks. Our real personality rises from under the microscope. We're done hiding our authentic feelings behind the mask of perfection and carrying the backpack of self-improvement. We’re ready to embrace that God has given us a spirit of love and self-control, and we aren't afraid anymore (2 Timothy 1:7). We're ready to show ourselves as God created us, and with a renewed sense of purpose.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13
A godly view of our strengths and weaknesses, now better than ever, equips us to take on brand new challenges and opportunities. With God directing our ship, no longer are we struggling to impress or fit into someone else's mold. Instead, we slide right into our skin.
We know who we are, and loosen up, prepared to live with abandon. Are you ready?
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For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1
The second act is a season to ponder the things that matter most. During this chapter of your life, you may choose. No more succumbing to the demands of life, which tossed your passions and interests to the back burner. Gone are the days of juggling children's schedules, constrictive timelines, or finances to meet family obligations. Now, you can do things you love. Pursue your desires and spiritual gifts guilt-free.
If you enjoyed working, it’s okay to stay in your field. Maybe you'll use what you know to start a small business or even drop to part-time. Or monetize a hobby. You can upgrade skills and learn something new. Take an inventory of your talents and abilities, pair them with interests, and sign up for a few workshops or webinars. What heart desires have you put on hold? Pursue them now.
New experiences will boost your confidence and satisfaction in living. Choose the area you gravitate toward and use it to serve others. Forget the past and move forward. How will you enhance your experience during this chapter?
Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:18-19
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Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17
Human interaction is vital for a healthy mind and body. We need friends for encouragement and support (1 Thessalonians 5:11). After retirement, you may find that social interaction diminishes. Family obligations are reduced, and the absence of colleagues leads to a reduction in social circles. Now, more than ever, it’s critical to cherish friendships. Life is not fun alone.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
The freedom of the second act provides more time to build relationships. Connect with people that make you better. Stay away from toxic relationships that pull you down—schedule time to meet new people. Join social clubs to connect with the community. Involvement in your church or volunteering through non-profit groups is one of the best ways to maintain your sense of purpose.
Build a support group of like-minded people. Find others with shared interests and serve on volunteer committees or enjoy fun activities together.
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Live in the Present
Throughout life, we look forward to the next thing. Use retirement to embrace the world around you and be present in your own life. I don't know about you, but I've lost many days of sleepwalking, not engaged in what was going on around me. I focused too much energy on wanting to get somewhere else or worrying about the future without enjoying where I was. Do you fret about what never materializes? Living in the present reduces anxiety and increases your peace of mind.
Keep track of short-term goals and do things that matter to you. These might be as simple as creating healthy eating habits or starting and sticking with an exercise routine. Permit yourself to do something just for fun and allow yourself to lose track of time. Time is what you have. Enjoy it. Act like a tourist and explore your city. Enjoy simple pleasures and morning routines. Laugh a lot. Love more. Savor everything.
Commit to cease complaining about the things you cannot change and refuse to dwell on negative circumstances. Give the gift of forgiveness to others and yourself.
The state of happiness does not develop by random chance. It has all to do with our choices and the effort we make to live untouched by our circumstances. It's not pretending our emotions are not real. We can't choose our feelings, but we can determine how we react to them. As much as it tempts us, we can avoid wallowing in our disappointments. The choice is ours.
Embark on a purpose-driven life that leads to contentment and delight. Genuine joy does not come from catering to our self-interests, but through uniting with and contributing to society. We must be part of something greater than ourselves, which means reducing ourselves and thinking about ourselves less. As a giver, we reach outward toward the beauty in the world, and are generous with our time and resources. Think about others.
In everything I did, I showed you that by this hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive. – Acts 20:35
By the time you've retired, you no doubt have hundreds and thousands of things to be thankful for. Whatever you focus on gets bigger. A grateful heart expands. Think about what makes you smile. As we smile, we are instructing ourselves to feel joy. Make it a routine part of your day to count your blessings. You'll experience joy in the second act by sharing it.
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