Straight from a Retiring Heart
By Lisa Elliott

The passage in Joshua 22:1-6 immediately caught my attention. Jumping off the pages of my Bible, it wrapped itself around my heart like a soft, warm blanket on a cold winter’s day. Here’s what I read:

“Then Joshua … said to them, ‘You have done all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded, and you have obeyed me in everything I commanded. For a long time now—to this very day—you have not deserted your fellow Israelites but have carried out the mission the LORD your God gave you” (Josh. 22:1-3, NIV).

At the time I read this passage, my husband and I were celebrating forty years of full-time pastoral ministry. Over the course of those forty years we poured our hearts and lives into five churches. As only the Lord could orchestrate, we had come full circle and were now ministering in the very church where my husband received the call to pastoral ministry forty years earlier. However, we were sensing our mission was accomplished and the time was drawing nigh for us to set the cloak of pastoral ministry aside to venture into a new chapter. As Joshua 22:4b indicated, the time had come to return to our own homes—turning our time and attention toward each other, our kids, and our grandkids.

Over the months that we prayerfully sought the Lord concerning our retirement, I took time to consider all the great things He has done for us, and marveled at His goodness. I reread fifty-seven prayer journals tracing the thread of God’s faithfulness throughout my life of ministry. I gathered many of my experiences and wrote about them in my book, A Ministry Survival Guide: Straight from the Heart. Most recently, I received an award from my alma-mater that felt more like a gift from God himself to acknowledge my service to Him.

I also considered some of the places in the Bible where the number forty held significance. For instance, Noah and his family endured forty days and forty nights of rain while living on an ark. After forty years of palace life, Moses spent forty years in Midian, before leading the children of Israel in their wilderness wanderings for another forty years. He also spent forty days on Mt. Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments. In 2 Samuel 5:4 we read that David reigned forty years. Joshua and the other spies spent forty days scouting out the Promised Land. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for forty days. There are forty days between His resurrection and His ascension. Reference to forty appears over 150 times in the Bible. In each case, something took place associated with a forty-day or forty-year period that changed the future for the various people involved. Why should it be any different for us?

We know full well that we are not simply retiring from. Rather we are retiring to. We have no doubt that the Lord will continue to use our gifts of speaking, preaching, and writing for His purposes. He has already lined up a few speaking engagements for the coming year. He has also opened the door wide for us to minister to grieving parents (see Hope | Muskoka Bible Centre). We are praying toward a greater awareness of this vital ministry. No matter what the Lord has in store for us, as we move ahead into our future, we must heed Joshua’s words, to love the Lord our God, walk in obedience to him, keep his commands, hold fast to him and serve him with all [our] heart and with all [our] soul (Josh. 22:5). However, our initial plan is to take time to rest as we watch and wait for His unfolding plan to be revealed.

“… See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Is. 43:19, NIV). Amen!

What new thing is God doing in your life?

About this Contributor:

Lisa Elliott

Lisa Elliott is an inspirational speaker and award-winning author of The Ben Ripple, Dancing in the Rain, and A Ministry Survival Guide. She’s also a writer for Just Between Us Magazine, theStory, and Good Ground. She and her pastor-husband, David, have four children (three on earth, one in heaven) and serve the Lord together in Ottawa, ON, Canada.

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