Armor for the Battle...
Imagine you’re in the dentist’s chair. He’s got a foot-long needle, smiles gently, and says, "This isn’t going to hurt." He pushes the needle in and in and in. You’re absolutely convinced it’s coming out the back of your neck. He pulls it out and selects a new place to deliver the torture.
After he has injected you several times, he says, "Just rest a moment while the medication starts to work." What he really means is, "You can start breathing now." Your heart begins to beat again. Soon you notice that your tongue feels swollen and puffy. Your lip is numb. You try to talk and nothing intelligent comes out. The agony is terrible now, but you know that it’s going to be over in a few hours and your face will feel normal again.
Midlife crisis is something like that experience at the dentist’s office. For a period of time your life is distorted--you feel strange to yourself and others may see a difference in you. You may take on a new lifestyle or some unusual thought patterns.
Midlife crisis, however, is not going to pass as quickly as your painful trip to the dentist. You're not going to get over it in one day or one month. You're really looking at about three to five years. During this time you’ve got some important tasks to carry out.
The first thing you need to do is to understand the problem. Two important words are "transition" and "crisis".
During my (Jim) midlife crisis I bought a sixteen-foot catamaran sailboat and used it for a great deal of release during the difficult years of value rethinking.
A "transition" means that you move from one stage of life to another, such as from childhood to adolescence, from adolescence to young adulthood. At midlife you make a transition from being a young adult to a midlife person. Everyone will make these transitions in life, but not everyone has a crisis.
"Crisis" means that during the transition people have a breakdown in some of their normal life patterns of thinking so that they do not function at their ordinary levels or in their ordinary lifestyles.
Many changes are going on in your life that may be contributing factors to your midlife crisis. For example, you may resent aging, or you may be afraid of dying. You may feel that your body is out of shape or your marriage is sour and disgusting. You may feel you're going nowhere in your career. On top of this, you may be asking such questions as, "What is life about anyway?" "Who am I and how do I fit into what’s happening in the world?" "Who is God?" "Does He know what is happening in my life?"
What is happening in your life is that you are moving from being a young adult with a young body and all of the future before you to being a midlife adult with a body that’s beginning to show its age and only part of your life is left before you. This is a crucial evaluation time in your life. Make the most of it so that you don’t continue to do a multitude of dumb things which really aren’t important.
Sometimes people in midlife crisis get involved in drastic lifestyle changes which have long-term effects. For example, if you decide that it’s all your mate’s fault, you could get involved in an affair or a quick divorce, only to find out a few months down the road that the problems were not outside you but inside.
Of course, there are other lifestyle changes that are extremely positive. For example, you may begin to eat better, exercise, get more sleep, and cut out the junky obligations that you used to feel were so important.
Many lifestyle changes at midlife can be great fun as you re-focus your energies and values toward the things that are now more important to you than when you were an eighteen-year-old. During my (Jim) midlife crisis I bought a sixteen-foot catamaran sailboat and used it for a great deal of release during the difficult years of value rethinking. I (Sally) went back to school and finished my college degree. I also shifted my interests from teaching young children to working with young adults. The point is, value rethinking is important and lifestyle changes are helpful, but avoid changes that are going to cause you long-term problems.
Midlife is the time when you re-examine all of your values. The young adult asks, "What am I going to do?" The midlife adult needs to ask the question, "Why am I doing this?"
You can help to prevent a midlife crisis by re-focusing four major areas of your life:
1. Work on your relationships. By midlife most marriages are at the lowest satisfaction level that they will ever be. The marriage has become dull and stale because it has been ignored. Too many pressures at work or too many activities with the kids can crowd out time to understand each other and build a warm marriage relationship. Work at it! A strong marriage will help prevent a midlife crisis.
Deepen your relationship with other friends. Get involved in a small Bible study and sharing group that is not built on political or social advancement but because you care for each other. Most people by midlife have very few true friends.
2. Rethink your career direction. Who has God created you to be? What are your gifts and talents? Are these being used in your career and does your career have a dimension of ministering to or improving other people’s lives? Doing something for other people is going to become increasingly important as you age. You will want to leave something behind you when you die. Does your career invest your time and energy in the lives of other people?
Perhaps now is the time to think about working in line with your gifts and abilities rather than just working for money. Perhaps your midlife crisis will give you the courage to rethink your career and maybe--just maybe--do what you’ve always wanted to do.
3. Midlife is the time when you re-examine all of your values. The young adult asks, "What am I going to do?" The midlife adult needs to ask the question, "Why am I doing this?"
You have three major resources: dollars, time, and energy. Ask yourself, "How am I going to use these things for the rest of my years?" "Why do I choose to use them in that way?" Go through your typical day, asking over and over again about every detail of the day, "Why am I doing this?" "Is this really important to me?" "Do all the pieces of your life--clothes--house--car--friends--really fit your values?" "Am I spending my dollars, time, and energy in the way I really want to spend them?" "Am I actually in line with the way God has created me as a special, unique person?"
4. During midlife crisis, you need stability. If you are a Christian, follow Christ, even though He may seem distant at some times. You feel distant because you are in crisis now. Keep on talking to God and keep on reading His Word. Read through the Psalms and let God slowly massage your heart. He really does care for you.
If you’ve never given your life to God, the Bible says if you will open up your life, God will come in and fellowship with you. (See Revelation 3:20)
Remember, God says, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Joshua 1:5).
If you need more help to make it through your midlife crisis, read some of the books listed in our bookstore: