Midlife Crisis

What comes to mind when you think of a midlife crisis?

Maybe it’s the forty something guy next door who splurges on a new sports car.  Maybe it’s the friend at work seeking a fresh relational spark now that her kids are off to college.  Maybe it’s the middle-aged mom regrouping after a painful divorce. Or, maybe it’s the couple celebrating their anniversary, both acutely aware of the fact that they are not the same people they were at age twenty, wondering whether they even recognize each other anymore. 

I’ve witnessed it across the board in all circles.  In the church, and out of the church. Just up the street, and afar.  It doesn’t matter who you are, there is an eventual reckoning with aging and time passed.  None of us can escape it.  A midlife crisis may take you by surprise or have slowly brewed.  It often includes a flood of emotions that whisper “It wasn’t supposed to be this way.”  “I imagined so much more by now.”  Or, “Is this everything there is for me in life?”   

This pivotal stage in life has been front and center for my husband and me over the last couple of years.  We have watched friends and family hit their forties alongside us.   For us, moving into our forties was the intersection of our present reality with all that we’d been working toward throughout our twenties and thirties.  There was something quite unmistakeable about turning forty….maybe because it is the halfway mark in life for most…that had us reflecting on where we’d been and what was to remain. 

I’m here to tell you that I believe a midlife crisis is entirely normal.  There are a variety of environmental, biological and psychological factors that contribute to the crisis; different for each of us. They can create feelings of confusion or sadness, often times leaving us questioning what we built our identity around over the last twenty-plus years. Sound familiar?  If yes, I’d like to encourage you to take a Gospel-shaped response.   When I say Gospel-shaped, I mean framing the feelings you are having within the greater context of your life as a whole and God’s plan for you.   When you do this, most will successfully ride the crisis out, surfacing on the other side stronger and better equipped to live out the latter half of their life. 

Without a Gospel-shaped approach, you run the risk of giving in to the temporal feelings that are swallowing you up in the moment.  Please don’t misunderstand me. Feelings are incredibly real. Taking time to validate them is important work.  But, feelings can also be incredibly fickle and deceiving at times, shifting by the moment.  They do not always align with truth.  And, when you swerve from God’s leading and cave to temporal feelings and desires, a counterfeit sense of freedom is the only thing that awaits.  Chasing temporary feelings without first placing them within the greater context of your faith will only distract you with interim happiness; one that is separate from the eternal legacy God has for us. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16: 26)  Efforts to satisfy yourself through things such as money, status, pleasure, etc. are futile and, in the end, lead to ruin.  While we can all appreciate the roots of a midlife crisis, it is not and should not be a green light for the sinful seductions of this world.  A job promotion that necessitates a compromise in your values……isn’t worth it.  The colleague at work that is filling a void in his marriage by flirting with you……isn’t worth it. 

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

Turn for moment with me to the book of Ecclesiastes.  Most probably written by Solomon, Ecclesiastes describes a similar crisis within his own life.  Written around 940-935 B.C., it is likely that Solomon penned these words during the second half of his life.  Ecclesiastes opens with “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”  (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Over the next twelve chapters, Solomon describes how utterly insignificant he believes life to be without God.  Solomon finishes with a stern warning against ensnarement with the things of the world…temporal in nature and appealing only to our fleshly senses.  Instead, he encourages a Gospel-shaped approach to the highs and the lows of life.  Ecclesiastes is a beautiful documentation of Solomon’s lessons learned over the passage of time in pursuit of God.

I too want what Solomon discovered. I want to “apply my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom” the best that God has for me ALL the days of my life (Ecclesiastes 1:13). I am placing the remainder of my life within a Gospel-shaped framework, asking God to continue to make straight my paths. I want to finish the race I’ve started well! And, I am here to encourage you to do the same.

I leave you with a few things things I’ve learned over the last couple of years……..

  • AGING CAN BE A BEAUTIFUL THING.  Trying to reverse time is a futile endeavor.  Yes, we should take care of our earthly bodies and treat them with respect and care.  But, we must realize that an earthly death eventually comes to all of us. (Ecclesiastes 9). It is our job to age gracefully, taking what we’ve learned and reinvesting it into the next generation.
  • SUFFERING REFINES US.  Never stop fighting.  C. S. Lewis’s famous observation: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”  Until all things are made new, we will live in this tension.  
  • PRIORITIES ARE CLARIFIED. As the old adage in Proverbs 31 mentions, “beauty if fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”  While material things of this world are meant to be enjoyed during our time here on earth, it is the love, lessons and memories we create that endure long beyond our living years.  That’s where I want remain focused for the time I have left here.
  • TIME IS THE GREATEST CURRENCY OF ALL.  Time has become my most precious asset.  “…..yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4: 14)  This verse has rung loud and clear over the last few years.  The reality that, in the grand scheme of everything, I am but a vapor.  A blip on the radar.  A dash on a grave stone.  That’s it.  What I choose to do with this short amount of time that I’ve been given is entirely up to me.  I want to leave an eternal legacy….something far greater than myself.

Your story is not over.  It may be shifting. But, it’s not over. As Ecclesiastes so eloquently states, there is a season for everything.  Embrace the past, take hold of the wisdom contained in Ecclesiastes, and look excitedly to the remaining half of your Gospel-shaped journey!

xo Carre

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