If you’re in your 40s-50s and anything like me, you probably don’t want to admit that you’re experiencing any form of midlife crisis.
Maybe you’ll admit it from a physical health standpoint, as all of us become aware of more aches, pains, and slowing down as we age in midlife. But it seems much more difficult to face and embrace it from an emotional and spiritual standpoint.
Interestingly enough, that’s probably one of the defining crises of midlife itself – we don’t want to admit the truth to ourselves that we’re getting older. Though I know it’s a fact that I’m getting older, it’s definitely not enjoyable to think about or embrace, especially if you’re an athlete like myself and have found a good chunk of your identity in those abilities.
As I approach my mid 50s and talk with friends in my stage of life, it seems at least one or more of the following five areas are quite common, real aspects of midlife crises for all of us. Let’s examine a few midlife crisis realities and how you can overcome them with God.
Overcoming discouragement about physical aging
7 But this beautiful treasure is contained in us—cracked pots made of earth and clay—so that the transcendent character of this power will be clearly seen as coming from God and not from us. 8 We are cracked and chipped from our afflictions on all sides, but we are not crushed by them.2 Corinthians 4:7-8, Voice
Our faith and relationship with God is a beautiful treasure, but it is housed in bodies which are fading. It can be disheartening as we have more aches and pains and experience more health issues. Our aging “cracks” and “chips” can make us feel discouraged.
The effects of physically aging are a reality we must not just face, but embrace, learning to appreciate this stage of our physical bodies like we would an old vintage car with its weathered parts that hold special meaning. It’s then, as the scripture implies, that we and others can appreciate the “power” in our lives coming from God, and not the strength of our flesh.
16…Despite the fact that our outer humanity is falling apart and decaying, our inner humanity is breathing in new life every day. 17 You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here. 18 So we do not set our sights on the things we can see with our eyes. All of that is fleeting; it will eventually fade away. Instead, we focus on the things we cannot see, which live on and on.2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Voice
This time in our lives is an opportunity to focus on leaving our mark. Even when our “outer” selves are beginning to decay, we can still “breathe in new life every day” spiritually. Though we can’t run as fast anymore, we can work at being smarter than ever before, maximizing the combination of our years of experience in tandem with our reliance on God to become ever wiser.
After all, the “effectiveness prize” for spiritual impact will not necessarily go to the quickest of the bunch (Ecclesiastes 9:11a NIV), but more than likely to the wisest and most reliant on God and his Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:4 Voice).
- Do you value or appreciate the aging process?
- How is God trying to help you rely on him to be even more impactful and powerful than before?
Overcoming settling for survival
The human spirit can endure a long illness, but who can survive a crushed spirit?Proverbs 18:14 Voice
As Proverbs 18:14 implies, it’s easier to endure physical trials than crushing emotional and spiritual challenges.
As we face more of life and the challenges and responsibilities it throws our way in our 40s and 50s, we can sometimes feel the weight of those challenges/responsibilities is beginning to crush our spirits.
- Kids maturing: Do you feel taxed emotionally by the needs of your kids as they develop and need your help more, navigating the teen and college years?
- Financial hurdles mounting: Are you feeling more burdened financially, paying for kids’ schooling, medical bills, etc?
- Career advancing: Is added responsibility and/or more stressful decision-making in your advancing job/career putting extra pressure on you daily?
- Parents aging: Are you worried more consistently or frequently about the health of your aging parent(s)?
Surviving these things can become our goal above trying to find new vision for our own lives in each of these areas. For example, in just the area of our kids alone, we can be thinking so much about their needs, vision for their lives, and helping them succeed, that we feel we don’t have the bandwidth to work at continuing to develop spiritual vision for our own lives.
One choice is just to hang on and try to ride the wave, navigating the storms. But as our spiritual and emotional energy wanes and we allow ourselves to get to a spot where we are tolerating living with a crushed spirit, we can find it easier to settle for survival rather than fight for renewed vision. Instead of settling, let’s look forward to gaining new vision centered around how we can multiply ourselves.
Give me grace to demonstrate to the next generation all your mighty miracles and your excitement, to show them your magnificent power!Psalm 71:18 TPT
As Psalm 71 implies, we should be thinking and dreaming about how we can train and nurture the next generation around us – not only our own kids, but younger people in our workplace and in church around us.
- Reflecting on the questions above (kids, financial hurdles, career, and aging parents), pick one or more that resonate most with you.
- How can you gain new vision in those given areas centered around making others great (or bringing out the best in others)?
Overcoming fears of the future
So why would I fear the future? For your goodness and love pursue me all the days of my life. Then afterward, when my life is through, I’ll return to your glorious presence to be forever with you!Psalm 23:6 TPT
By midlife, most of our kids are in their teen or college years. As we see gaps in their character that need building and their teenage irresponsibility in different areas, we may fear whether we have prepared our kids to succeed in the big, high-pressure world out there. Somehow we forget that our character still had a lot of building to do when we were in our teens.
But it can definitely cause us to fear and play out scenarios in our heads where our kids are getting fired from work, going without power and electricity because they didn’t pay the bill on time, or even worse, getting evicted because they didn’t pay the rent.
Because one of my boys handles his anxiety about time pressure by adopting an “ultra-casual” attitude to calm himself, he’s often late to things. I can play scenarios in my head of him getting fired from a job for being late repeatedly, or people just labeling him as unreliable and disrespectful.
Maybe we don’t have kids or we are still single in midlife. This can cause a whole different set of fears wondering if we will still find the “love of our life,” a companion to share the rest of our life with. Is it too late? Have I missed the window?
Finally, as we age, we can also experience more fear in the area of opportunities for our career to advance or finish in the place where we once expected to get to. We can fear what retirement will look like. Will we have earned enough or positioned ourselves well enough to afford our future (home, cost of living, debts, etc) when we stop working?
Will we be able to live the rest of our lives in financial security? We don’t want to ever feel we will need our kids or friends to have to bail us out because we didn’t plan retirement properly.
The fears above are only a few you may relate to. But it’s important we each look inside to identify and take on whatever personal midlife fears of the future we each have personally.
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Eternal, “plans for peace, not evil, to give you a future and hope – never forget that.”Jeremiah 29:11 Voice
To take these fears on, we must remember Jeremiah 29 and replace these real fears of the future with courage, prayer, and faithful planning. This is where spiritual and mature relationships with other people in our life stage can help, as well as retirees who can help us plan appropriately for that time ahead.
We don’t have to have it all figured out. We just need to get help and be humble to learn how to take the steps that will best prepare us for our next stages ahead.
- Who are 2-3 older/more mature friends who you admire for how they’ve navigated the stages ahead of you? How can you reach out for advice and perspective?
Overcoming disappointment or regret
Some of us once sat in darkness, living in the dark shadows of death. We were prisoners to our pain, chained to our regrets.Psalm 107:10 TPT
One of the greatest challenges for the privilege of aging is having to face regret or disappointment. This could be regret from opportunities missed or the disappointment of expectations unfulfilled, midlife tends to amplify our “what if’s” and “if only’s”.
Sometimes by midlife, we can face disappointment realizing we prioritized pursuing worldly endeavors and accomplishments at the expense of relationships with loved ones (immediate or extended family, etc).
Those who trust in their wealth are headed for great disappointment, but those who do right will sprout like green leaves in the spring.Proverbs 11:28 Voice
As Proverbs 11 implies, at some point in our life we will experience disappointment when we live a life trusting in and chasing wealth. Its emptiness will often eventually make us realize we have “chased the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:4). In those moments, we can feel great regret and disappointment at missed opportunities in relationships.
The temptation to look back is real, but God is always looking forward. Forward is about fulfilling our purpose, to change lives. Our past helps us relate and endear us to those he wants us to influence for good. God turns all our life experiences, our fond ones and our painful ones into relatable ones so we can help others. Paul had a spiritual attitude toward his past.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.Philippians 3:13-14 NIV
Additionally, when we share God’s dream of changing the world, then experience is an asset. The more experiences we embrace, the more people we can relate to.
Paul considered even weaknesses to be an asset to win people over.
To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.1 Corinthians 9:22 NIV
Ultimately God knows our current days can keep being our best days, and nudges us forward to take hold of all he still has planned for us. Just look at Abraham later in life:
Abraham was almost a hundred years old, so he was past the age for having children. Also, Sarah could not have children. Abraham was well aware of this, but his faith in God never became weak.  He never doubted that God would do what he promised. He never stopped believing. In fact, he grew stronger in his faith and just praised God.  Abraham felt sure that God was able to do what he promised.Romans 4:19-21 ERV
Just as he did for Abraham, God makes purpose out of our regrets and disappointments. These vulnerabilities become the fuel that makes us real and authentic.
- What relationship regrets do you feel that are ongoing, that you carry with you? How can you mend or change them currently?
- Who can you get input from on how to navigate this spiritually?
Overcoming unbelief in making impact ahead
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”John 6:29 NIV
Finally, we can really struggle to believe. This might not be doubt that God is real or that he can do amazing things in our life, but maybe more so that he is done using us to do amazing things, that our best days and impact are behind us.
Again, this is a great place to reinvent our perspective and think about how we can make others around us better. How can we help others around us who are younger become the best they can be by sharing our experience and being willing to invest our hearts and vision in them?
Let’s decide to believe we can do even greater things ahead in life rather than just in the “glory days” behind us. Instead of looking back on days past for relevance, let’s look forward to constantly reinventing ourselves spiritually to create new glory days.
- Who are 2-3 friends who are younger or less experienced than you that you can have vision for and help them become the best they can be?