I'm turning over in my mind how I'm going to reach 65 as a full-time worker before dying of exhaustion.
I had a serious energy and brain-sapping illness once, which still affects my whole life. If I overdo my energies, it could rise again like a horned monster from the deep. For me, this illness is "Grendel's Mother". It is like a male walrus on David Attenborough's "Frozen Planet", a threatening lion roaring, with battle scars and huge blooded fangs. To continue the "Frozen Planet" imagery, in its complexity, this illness is as cunning as a cabal of Orca (killer) whales playing with a seal clinging to a tiny iceberg, upsetting its precarious balance and tipping it into freezing icy waters, then pulling it down to its death.
Thus I have to seriously weigh up whether ongoing work past 60 is "overdoing it".
The Bible says:
"And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men".
Other translations say "work with all your heart" or "willingly", "heartily" or "with enthusiasm" because you are not working for society, or men - but for God - and God has a purpose for you. He has a purpose in all things, even for illness.
Paid work is part of the history of the world. You may have a special role that particularly pertains to maintaining the justice or "light" of God. I work on "community" and "protecting the environment", but part of His purpose, in my case, may be helping disabled staff at work - which is very close to my heart. Lightening "the burden of suffering" can be a blessed activity.
"Fiftysomethings" have important paid roles to fulfil : maintaining structure and standards, raising educational standards, passing on reason and truth, publishing quality books, maintaining discipline and order (without which society collapses), administration, manual labour, skills and crafts, caring, serving the community and the myriad of other "callings".
Can new "enthusiasm" for this task override the desire for a retired life?
Being realistic, can workers now, in this economy, afford this other longed-for life? They must be practical. We all now need enough income to live, possibly to 100.....
Widening our perspective can being energising. Work is about much more than just earning a living: it is, biblically speaking, a "vocation" that makes us fully human. It is a central part of our purpose and identity, which is why those unemployed (rather than those retired) can feel bereft. Some may argue that this extension of working life, is not His doing - but caused by "bankers" or others. But this demographic change was discussed many years ago, long before 2008. We just happen to be living longer. The question is whether üpeople are living longer in a healthy state. There is always the hope that a healthy lifestyle can help.
Christians can always pray for the energy to fulfil their extended calling, until they can say "My task is done". Nor should we or anyone try to live more than "one day at a time". Developing a habit of living in the present is helpful, - just doing the task of the moment, thankful for health and strength to complete it. In addition, Christian can also rest in faith, in God's ongoing provision.
Some people, who maintain a keen interest in people, never retire. They may have a special input developing younger generations, giving them an inspiring model to follow. Older workers "serve" during national emergencies. During World War Two, children were taught by retired teachers, who took the place of those called up to fight.
Society desperately needs the influence of cultured, wise and trained people. In an age in which children are no longer properly thinking or reading (as one teacher contact reports) and in which the UK must become a highly skilled, highly functioning economy of some sort, God may well know that without our input, at this very period, the "light" of the West may "extinguish".