By Molly Parker, Crosswalk.com
Life’s halfway point has a tendency to sneak up on us. Just yesterday, or so it seems, we waltzed into our twenties, thinking we had all the time in the world to land a great career, find an amazing spouse, go on thrilling adventures, and raise brilliant, obedient kids (because, after all, we knew how to raise kids before we even had kids).
But somewhere between the ages of 40 and 60, we turn contemplative, regretful even:
- My career never took off—why did I major in liberal studies?
- My adult son isn’t interested in God—why didn’t my parenting focus more on the Gospel and less on morality?
- My traveling repertoire is limited to a handful of states—why didn’t I backpack through Europe when I had the chance?
Whether we’ve reached our goals—or we’re still waiting for our ships to come in—life’s stressors, transitions, and surprises often prove too much. And before long, we find ourselves mumbling: “I think I’m having a midlife crisis.”
Instead of thinking that a new car, new career, new body, or new gaming console will give us the boost we need, let’s rely on God to do an entirely new thing in our hearts, to “make a pathway through the wilderness [and] create rivers in the dry wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).
Let’s look to our Creator as we consider 7 things to do if we think we’re having a midlife crisis:
1. Be Thankful in Everything
At the root of every “I think I’m having a midlife crisis” is usually a lack of gratitude. With age comes a tendency to feel deserving of the very best things in life. We often think, “I’ve come too far and worked too hard to still drive a minivan, to still rent a house instead of own, to not be respected at work, and to not be able to afford the lobster.”
Instead of caving in to self-pity, let’s “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for [us] in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Sure, we’re not naturally thankful for unwelcome circumstances. But there is always a reason (or two or three) to be thankful. For starters, we have a God who loves us, who is prepping heaven for us, who is sovereign over everything that happens to us, and who “works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).
2. Focus on God’s Creation
The more years we have under our belts, the bigger our pile of heartaches and setbacks. But no matter how much we’ve lost or had to let go, one thing will always remain: the beauty in everything God touches. Our loving and thoughtful God made the world beautiful. He didn’t have to; it’s just what he does. Flower-blanketed hills don’t provide any real function and have no practical purpose; they don’t make us money, do our laundry, or massage our shoulders. Yet they tug our focus away from our midlife crises and set our gaze back to where it needs to be—in the direction of our Creator God.
So, next time you see, taste, feel, or listen to something beautiful, let it move you—let it send you—and simply “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord” (Psalm 27:4 ESV).
3. Let God Fight for You
The chances of us shouting “Get off my lawn!” and “That’s not how we did it!” seem to increase the older we get. For whatever reason, ranging from our changing hormones to dashed dreams to broken relationships, we’re more likely to let the world’s injustices turn us into opinionated, easily-offendable 40-plus-year-olds.
The problem is, we take on too much. Instead we need to “give all [our] worries and cares to God” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT) and let him fight for us.
Then, we won’t be so afraid all the time—afraid that someone might wrong us, forget us, misunderstand us, ridicule us, and lie to us. When we make Jesus our defender, champion, redeemer, rememberer, and truth-teller, he is sure to soften our cranky ways.
4. Lean into God’s Presence
If middle-aged living has got you down, and you’re wondering where God is, you’re not alone. Gideon also wondered about God’s presence in Judges 6:13: “If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?”
Sure, it’s true that God can use our over-the-hill struggles to showcase his glory, but it’s often hard to find comfort in that truth when it feels like he’s nowhere to be found.
Several summers ago, my husband and I hiked around Hatcher Pass in Alaska. Even though the Talkeetna Mountains surrounded us, we couldn’t see a single one because their greatness was blocked by clouds, but they were still very much there—and still very much great.
Artist James Smetham once said of another mountain, “Mont Blanc does not disappear, becoming a passing vision or whimsical mist, simply because a climber grows dizzy on its slopes.”
So it is with God. Whether we’ve known him 30 years or 30 minutes, daily run to him or ignore him, see his will clearly or “grow dizzy” on his slopes, he promises: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NLT).
5. Continue to Dream
What dreams did you have when you were little? They were probably ridiculous and far-fetched, yet exciting and daring.
How did your dreams change once you became an adult? Do you still dream today? I’m not talking about the kind where you forget to show up for class all semester, and now you have a test. I’m talking about life pursuits that make you giddy and starry-eyed.
Sometimes a midlife crisis is characterized by the loss of a dream or the realization that a dream never came true. And if we’re not careful, an attitude of “why bother” can set in. But don’t let it! When you least expect it, God can restore an old dream or give you an entirely new one.
Look what happened to a few very unlikely people when they “least expected it”: David was chosen to be king. Mary was told by an angel that she was going to birth the Savior of the world. And Matthew was personally called out by Jesus—“Follow me” (Matthew 9:9).
Trusting that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20) should set the oft dreamer in us at rest.
6. Don’t Rehash Past Mistakes
I once saw a trash can labeled, “Trash to go through.” It made me wonder, “Unless someone accidentally threw away an important paper or a perfectly good piece of chocolate, who would want to go through their trash?”
Come to think of it, we mid-lifers comb through our trash more often than we’d care to admit. Whether it’s stuff we’ve done or should have done, things we’ve judged wrongly or stupidly said, we somehow allow past mistakes to slow us down relationally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Oh, but happy are the people “whose sin the Lord does not count against them” (Psalm 32:2), making it quite possible for us trash-rehashers to move through this midlife business more freely—allowing God’s love, not guilt, to power us along.
7. Be a Blessing to Others
Speaking of rehashing past mistakes, it’s easy to become inward-focused—to self-loathe—when we’re pushing 50. There’s just so much life to reflect on. We have great memories: the children we’ve raised, the holidays we’ve celebrated, and the portfolios we’ve built. But we also have not-so-great memories: the opportunities we didn’t grab, the lessons we didn’t learn, and the relationships we didn’t nurture.
Why not ask God to help us look outside ourselves to see how we can bless others? Whether we extend a warm smile, a listening ear, or a sweet compliment—or hop on a plane to Africa to share the Good News of Jesus—God is quick to lift you out of your pit of despair when you show love to people. Proverbs 11:25 says, “The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” (NLT).
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/simonapilolla
Molly Parker is a freelance copywriter and content editor whose passion is helping clients craft engaging, personality-packed content. In addition to finding beauty in the way God’s redemptive plan is woven throughout Scripture, she adores imaginative story lines, catchy phrasing, and sentence structure (just watch how her eyes twinkle when she mulls over comma placements). Molly calls California home with her grown-up kids, hunky husband, and sassy cat. Visit her at www.mollyjeanparker.com.