Video Courtesy of Nakaiya Turk
Most likely you’ve viewed numerous commercials advising the need to start retirement planning as early as possible so that you can live comfortably or to care for your needs in the golden years. It’s an attractive prospect for aging millennials. No more long commutes to work. No more hassles dealing with uncooperative people or someone else telling you what to do all the time. No more reminding subordinates of approaching deadlines. It means you can finally do nothing but kick back and enjoy life and live it up. However, there’s something the advertisers don’t tell you — God designed you to work before sin entered the world and to find meaning in work throughout eternity. And, contrary to what some believe, work is not a curse but a gift to us. Granted most, if not all of us, will lose vitality as we age in this fallen world or lose our health altogether. But if God designed us for work before the fall, he must have wanted us to find meaning in it. So, what should my attitude be regarding career and retirement?
Spiritual Attitude Regarding Work & Retirement
Authors Jinkook Lee and James P. Smith (2009) address the subject of retirement in an article entitled Work, Retirement, and Depression. Their research indicates that retirement is not always what it appears. In some instances, retirees experience a sense of depression because they no longer interact with their former peers in the workplace. And because employers look for younger employees with newer skills and smaller salaries, it often becomes challenging for these older workers to maintain a presence in the workforce. This is, however, in contrast to older workers who find satisfaction in a hobby or alternate line of work suitable for their age. Some continue working in a company beyond retirement years due to the nature of the job, such as being an insurance salesman or educator.
Elizabeth White, author of “55, Underemployed, and Faking Normal: Your Guide to a Better Life”
Now you may be thinking, “Okay! That’s well and good. But what does that have to do with me? I’m putting away for retirement. What else is there?” I’m glad you asked. As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, we know that because we are made in God’s image our lives have meaning and purpose when we walk in His will. Scripture says, “For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). My question is have you and I considered work plans that involve being fully engaged in some form of work beyond retirement? In other words, are you developing a Christo-centric mindset that allows you to develop the right spiritual attitude to make satisfying and essential career transitions?
Why is this significant? A few things come to mind. You may have noticed the world continues to change at a torrid pace, which means those skills you acquired through all of your hard work is at risk of becoming obsolete very fast. And so your journey to retirement may be significantly challenged due to resource drain from acquiring new skills. This, in turn, may require you to work longer than expected and most likely have to adapt to newer and more expensive realities. It appears that the challenge facing a new generation of Christians is can they maintain an eternal perspective regarding work, adapt to a changing society, and develop adequate retirement funds without hoarding.
Doing Lifelong Purposeful Work
I grew up in a struggling African American neighborhood in Little Rock, AR, watching men and women of color working as janitors, cooks, handymen, and bus drivers. No one talked to me about my career aspirations in a significant way. I don’t know where I got the idea, but I just knew I wanted to be an artist or a photographer. It was nothing for me to lose myself for hours in a drawing project; however, I could never muster up enough money to pursue the photography dream.
When I became a Christian, my dreams and pursuits took a detour as I yearned to find a purpose in what I was doing. I took up engineering and architectural drafting in high school and then a year in college. I was surprised when I landed a job with a small architectural and engineering firm. The experience was rewarding, but it didn’t fulfill my drive for meaning and purpose. After a year-long battle with cancer, my mother went home to be with the Lord.
I left the firm and decided to attend Calvary Bible College in Kansas City, MO in hopes of finding answers to what God wanted me to do. For five years, I trained as a pastor and radio broadcaster. My “purpose” didn’t reveal itself until I was appointed news director of a small radio station in Atlanta for Moody Radio. The station was part of a larger network of several around the U.S., and I discovered my love for urban outreach. It was the purpose I had been searching for. Through years of trials and challenges, I earned an MBA and a Doctor of Business Administration.
Looking back on my life and calling in Christ, I feel this deep sense of loss and regret that I discovered a deeper purpose later in life. I sense that growing up in a single parent household without the exposure to academic mentors and professionals prevented me from awakening from pursuing amazing opportunities and reaching my God-given potential earlier. Yet, all along the way, I have maintained an embedded desire to do something significant and purposeful. In a very real sense, the Lord has graciously granted me my childhood dream by transforming me into an artist and photographer with a different kind of canvas in which I utilize graphics, communication, and business research/analysis to illustrate the path to a better way of life for others.
Spiritual & Psychological Impact of Working Purposefully
In my estimation, God is the supreme master craftsman who has designed and wired humanity to live with purpose. A team of educational psychology researchers at the University of Louisville, KY — Kosine, Steger, and Duncan — seem to have a pretty good handle on the subject from a scientific perspective. In their research, The Purpose-Centered Career Development: A Strengths-Based Approach to Finding Meaning in Careers, the authors found that people who view work as meaningful are more satisfied and more committed employees. Their findings seem to dovetail what the Word of God talks about regarding the principle of living with purpose.
Essentially, developing a God-shaped mind to work with purpose is usually a work in progress that takes effort and intentionality. It means we become followers of Christ who creatively exercise our minds to filter career and life plans through our relationship with Christ. It means we need to take into account our natural bent and allow the Lord to shape and mold what we’ve come to know and understand about ourselves. It’s not easy letting go and letting Him rearrange things in our lives. Developing a God-shaped mind to work with purpose means we adopt principles of design thinking, which is simply making sure our career passions and goals align with all that He is and all that we are in Him. Even though you may feel a sense of regret for missed opportunities like I sometimes do, I’ve come to realize that so many are insignificant and I am what I am today because of the Lord was busy shaping and molding me through my circumstances.
Kosine, N. R., PhD., Steger, M. F., PhD., & Duncan, S., Ph.D. (2008). Purpose-centered career development: A strengths-based approach to finding meaning and purpose in careers. Professional School Counseling, 12(2), 133-136. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/home/pcx
Lee, J., & Smith, J. P. (2009). Work, retirement, and depression. Journal of Population Ageing, 2(1-2), 57-71. doi:10.1007/s12062-010-9018-0