An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life by Jeff Haanen

Book Review
  • Approximate Time Commitment: 6 minutes

This book review is written by Gene Van Den Bosch (Gene and his wife Gloria served in Romania from 1995 to 2001, then served on the Engage Team as Directors until their retirement from the National Office at the end of 2018, and have served as part-time Pastors to Missionaries for the last 2 years.)

Partner: Grow2Serve

Resource Description

This book was recommended to me as I have been in part-time retirement and moving towards full retirement.   I was impressed with the depth of this book, considering that Jeff Haanen is not close to retirement yet.  But after several chapters, I found that his age was not a factor in the level of understanding and insights that he has.

In this book, Jeff recognizes that we are in a time of crisis and opportunity.   The crisis has to do with the fact that approximately 10,000 Americans are turning 65 years old every day.  Yet they are poorly prepared to flourish in the new season of life they are entering.   Our culture sees retirement as a time of vacation and not vocation.   However, this is this isn’t working out for both individuals and the wider society.  Jeff observes, “As I watch family and friends experience the jarring change (associated with retirement), I’ve noticed that the stories they’ve unconsciously believed about retirement don’t match their all-too-human experiences” (p. 14).

The cultural retirement dream, a life of endless vacation, turns out to backfire for many who are actually able to achieve it.  Of course, many are not able to achieve the financial independence needed for an endless vacation.   However, even those who are well-funded without obligations often turn out to be miserable.   Jeff notes, “[A] life defined only by leisure in retirement often leads to depression.  The BBC reports that retirement can increase chances of clinical depression by 40 percent” (p. 17) Even retirees who are not depressed can feel a pervasive lack of meaning and purpose in their season of endless vacation.

While this book has a lot of well-informed social analysis and engaging real-life illustrations, the best thing about the book for me is his attempt to shape our understanding of retirement by key themes in Scripture.    Those themes are presented in a two-part structure.   Part 1 focuses on “Renewal” and Part 2 focuses on “Wisdom”.  In both parts he points us to core biblical truths.

An example of this is in the second chapter of the book Jeff focuses on sabbath.   He shows that the notion of retirement as an endless vacation falls short of God’s intention for our lives.  Yet, he also disagrees with some Christian teachers who insist that we should keep on working and working until we go to glory.   He understands the need for those of us in the third third of our lives to experience a season of rest, refreshment, and discernment.   He suggests that as we retire, we should take an extended (but limited) time for a sabbatical “to heal past wounds, seek God’s voice, and find God’s call for the next season of life” (p. 43). He suggests that we take this time so “we can develop the spiritual muscles to hear the voice of God, see the beauty of creation, and embrace our place in it” (p. 52).

While the 1st part of the book is on Renewal and covers Culture, Sabbath, Calling, & Work; the 2nd part of the book is on Wisdom and covers Time, Health, Learning, Mentoring, Family, and Hope.  I really appreciated Jeff’s faithfulness to Scripture and his insightful use of Scripture.    While the 2nd  part is entitled Wisdom, it isn’t his wisdom, but the wisdom of God found in Scripture.   Jeff is pointing us to God to help us find His purpose in our lives during this season of our lives.  God still has a calling in our lives; what that is and looks like late in life is important to understand in light of God’s Word to us in the various topics he covers in this section of the book.

I strongly recommend this book for those looking to retire in the next couple years, as well as those who have already retired and are seeking God’s leading in their later years.  It is well-written with a lot of insight and is a fairly easy read.


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