Christian Biblical Counsel: MIDLIFE CRISES (Updated)

Midlife Crisis

Facing the Fork in the Road

by June Hunt

“Mid-life can be the most productive—or destructive—years of your life.”

Midlife can be a time of self-doubt and disappointments that can lead to irrational thinking, impetuous purchases and irresponsible relationships.

But this crisis can also be an immensely productive time as well, a time when people refocus their priorities and exchange old desires with new dreams. During this time of crisis you can come into a deeper knowledge of who you are and what your relationship with God can be.

In fact, a midlife crisis may be a God-produced event designed to shake you out of your comfort zone so that you might achieve the highest purpose for which you were created.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

(Galatians 6:9)

I.     Definitions

A. What Is Midlife?

•     Midlife is considered to be the middle ages in life ranging anywhere from (approximately) thirty-five to sixty.

B. What Is a Crisis?

•     A crisis is any unstable, crucial point at which change must occur (financial crisis, energy crisis, personal crisis).

•     The Greek word for “crisis” is krisis, which means “decision or sifting.”

C. What Is a Midlife Crisis?

•     A midlife crisis is an unstable, crucial time of life during middle age when a person feels the immediate necessity to reevaluate one’s identity, values and goals.

•     A midlife crisis may occur at the time of transitional changes in a person’s life.

•     The resulting change can be negative or positive, depending on the choices that are made.

“He is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”

(James 1:8)

 

II.    Characteristics of Midlife Crisis

A. Emotional

•     sense of loss

•     self-pity

•     anger

•     depression

•     anxiety

•     fear of aging

•     self-doubt

•     burnout

•     feeling trapped

•     “now or never” mentality or sense of urgency

“Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.”

(Psalm 102:1–2)

(Also Read Psalm 102:1–11.)

B. Behavioral

•     strong desire for change (marriage, job, appearance)

•     attempts to escape (T.V., drugs, travel, sleep)

•     dressing in a youthful manner

•     preoccupation with physical body (appearance, health)

•     vulnerability to sexual attraction outside marriage

•     personality changes

•     lack of church attendance and spiritual growth

•     withdrawal from close relationships

•     negative outlook on life

•     seeking to complete unfulfilled goals (education, children, career)

“I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest—I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.’ ”

(Psalm 55:6–8)

C. Midlife Crisis Checklist

“Our spirits are restless until they find their rest in God.”

Saint Augustine

□    I feel trapped in my circumstances.

□    I wish I could disappear.

□    I feel I am getting old too fast.

□    I feel I’ve never had the chance to do what I really wanted to do.

□    I regret past decisions.

□    I feel like a failure.

□    I don’t feel I’m really needed.

□    I feel unappreciated.

□    I don’t have any real purpose for living.

□    I have grown spiritually numb to the Lord and the church.

□    I daydream and fantasize.

□    I find myself shirking my responsibilities.

□    I have little interest in sex with my spouse.

□    I am easily angered.

□    I mistrust the motives of those close to me.

□    I feel that now is my last chance for happiness.

Although you may be in the midst of a midlife crisis,

yield to the Lord, who promises to be your Sustainer.

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

(Isaiah 46:4)

 

III.   Causes of Midlife Crisis

A. Surface Causes

Transitions

Major Transitions from One Season of Life to Another

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

(Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Thoughts of one’s own mortality

Reassessment of lifelong goals and values

Achievement of goals but not finding fulfillment

Normal biological and physiological changes

Sexual drive (diminishes in the male, increases in the female)

Insufficient financial resources

Traumatic illness or death of parents, family or close friends

Identity misplaced (in a person, a job or social status)

Offspring at difficult age and/or leaving home

Narrowing of job opportunities

Social emphasis on youth

B. Root Cause

Wrong Belief: “I am trapped in a life that is unfulfilling. I deserve a chance to make changes before it is too late, to discover my own identity and to find personal happiness.”

Right Belief: My identity is in the Lord Jesus Christ. I will not selfishly demand the fulfillment of my own desires and dreams. I know that true fulfillment comes in finding God’s purpose for my present situation and trusting God with my future.

“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11)

 

IV.  Steps to Solution

A. Key Verse to Memorize

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.”

(Jeremiah 17:7)

B. Key Passage to Read and Reread

2 Samuel 11:1–26

David’s Downfall

David shirked   his responsibility and avoided his work.              v. 1 
David was restless   and discontented             v. 2 
David turned   to temptation not from it.              vv. 2–3 
David acted   out of lust not loyalty             v. 4 
David tried to   cover   not confess his sin.              vv. 8–13 
David decided   to give in to his desire             vv. 14–15 
David’s deceit   brought death             v. 24 
David’s decisions   and direction displeased God.              vv. 25–26 

2 Samuel 12:1–23

David’s Restoration

David repented   of his sin.              v. 13 
David grieved   his loss.              v. 16 
David accepted   the consequences of his sin.              v. 22–23 

C. The Marriage Perspective

Question: “How can a husband help his wife through a difficult midlife crisis?”

Answer:

—  Be a strong but gentle leader, walking with God. There is no greater cause for wifely respect than for a husband to assume spiritual servant headship in his household.

—  Try to understand what she is feeling. An empathetic response, even one that is inaccurate, demonstrates a desire for intimate communication and relationship.

—  Encourage her to communicate anger. Anger that is suppressed, repressed or denied is anger that will fester. It needs to be resolved, but in a manner that is constructive, not destructive.

—  Give her space and room to grow. Realize that she is your “other half,” the complementary member of a “one flesh” relationship. Encourage her unique giftedness by supporting her efforts to grow.

—  Build her self-image verbally. She cannot read your mind. Express out loud your appreciation of her physical appearance, her character traits and her accomplishments.

—  Encourage her in projects and activities. Seek to identify what recreation she especially enjoys. Participate with her in those activities.

—  Be focused on building her emotional security. Tell her every day that you love her, that she is your lifelong companion.

“Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” (Ephesians 5:28)

Question: “How can a wife help her husband through a difficult midlife crisis?”

Answer:

—  Be in daily prayer and study of God’s Word. There is power in a praying wife who applies the truth and promises of God’s Word to her own family, especially to her husband.

—  Try to understand what he is battling emotionally. Commit to learning his unique needs and work toward meeting those needs.

—  Be prepared for his anger to be directed toward you. Take your own insecurities to God, but encourage a constructive expression of his frustrations.

—  Let go of expectations regarding his appreciation of you. Everyone is unique and deserves special treatment, but give up the “princess syndrome.”

—  Find ways to gently encourage him to discuss his feelings. Ask him about his day, not expecting a rehearsal of the events, but encouraging conversation about things that had significant impact on him.

—  Be as attractive physically, verbally and morally as possible. Understand that a man is much more visually oriented than a woman, but also understand that your physical appearance was one of the reasons for his initial attraction to you. If you continue to make the most of your physical appearance, you will be just as pretty to him when you are eighty years old as when you were twenty. Understand that words can be powerful … in either criticism or praise. Also understand that to a maturing man the most attractive woman is a godly woman.

—  Be focused on building his self-image. The average woman has no idea of the power she has over her mate. That power does not lie in criticism and correction, but it resides in praise.

“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.” (1 Peter 3:1)

Question: “How can a husband and a wife help each other in a difficult midlife crisis?”

Answer:

—  Put romance back into your marriage.

—  Consider a rather unusual passage to relate to a marriage, but one that can be applied to your relationship.

“I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” (Revelation 2:4–5)

1.   The Problem

»    Have you “forsaken your first love”? Other translations say, “left your first love.” This does not necessarily refer to a physical leaving, but rather to the absence of a sense of connection, therefore, the absence of a sense of romance.

2.   The Solution

»    “Remember the height from which you have fallen.” Remember what attracted you to each other in the first place. Those traits and attributes are still present, although covered up with the overlay of marital neglect.

»    “Repent. Change the direction of your relationship. Ask yourself, “What are the things that are keeping us from intimacy? Schedules? Wrong priorities? Hurts? What?” Identify those things and commit to change.

“Do the things you did at first.” Spend time together. Be courteous to one another. Talk!

D. Move from Crisis to Christ

•     Who am I?

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” (1 John 3:1)

•     What is my purpose in life?

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1–2)

•     To whom do I really want to give myself?

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” (Matthew 22:37–39)

•     What do I want to do for the rest of my life?

“I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:8)

•     Where does God fit into my life?

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:1–6)

•     What does God do with my wrong choices?

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22–23)

•     Where does my hope ultimately lie?

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62:5–8)

E. Model a Positive Midlife Message

Through the strength of Christ, who lives within you

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

(Philippians 4:13)

•     I will regard midlife as different, not inferior.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

•     I will realize the advantages of aging.

—  Wisdom and knowledge are gained from experiences. Understand that we are the product of our experiences. Learn to value the trials as well as the successes.

—  Endurance is strengthened through change and hardship.

—  Relationships are cherished and confirmed by testing.

—  Spiritual focus is sharpened by looking on the unseen and the eternal.

“Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” (Job 12:12)

•     I will accept the physical changes that are happening to me.

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

•     I will evaluate my life purpose.

—  Discern what brings you joy.

—  Discover your spiritual gifts.

—  Determine your given responsibilities.

—  Develop a written statement (vision).

“We pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:10)

•     I will set goals for new challenges.

—  Think of something you always wanted to do and design a plan to accomplish it.

—  Understand that “ministry” is something to which all believers are called. Find your own ministry, wherever that may be.

“The noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands.” (Isaiah 32:8)

•     I will aim for sincere love in my relationships.

—  Substitute your name for the word love in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7.

—  Pray, “Lord, may I think more about giving love than receiving love.”

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9)

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4–7)

•     I will focus on creatively communicating love to others.

—  Verbally affirm the positive qualities of each person in your home. For every word of criticism, it may take up to 100 words of praise to balance. It may be that we are never called to criticize, but rather to always affirm. Let the Holy Spirit do the convicting!

—  Ask your mate to write out your positive qualities, and make a list of your mate’s positive qualities.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)

•     I will determine to make the most of the time God gives me.

—  Determine your priorities.

—  Live one day at a time.

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

•     I will listen for God’s direction in my life.

—  Study Scripture, pray, meditate.

—  Listen to godly advice.

—  Look for open doors, but use caution. God will sometimes leave a door open to see if you will go through it. Test an open door by His Word before proceeding, and even then, wait for the Spirit’s voice to say, “Go ahead.”

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

•     I will recognize God’s presence in my life.

—  Be aware of the constant presence of Christ in you walking each step with you.

“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)

—  Respond with the attitude of Christ to your difficult situations, and remember that living with God is an adventure to be savored, not a destination to be conquered.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

(Isaiah 43:2)

A   midlife crisis, though grueling, can be a gift from God. It’s the charge you   need for change. As you reevaluate your values, choose positive priorities,   godly goals and find your life in the Lord.—June   Hunt

 

 

Selected Bibliography

Conway, Jim. Men in Mid-Life Crisis. Rev. ed. Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor, 1997.

Conway, Jim, and Sally Conway. Maximize Your Mid-Life. Pocket Guides. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1987.

Conway, Jim, and Sally Conway. Women in Mid-Life Crisis. Rev. and updated ed. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1998.

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008

Ortlund, Ray, and Anne Ortlund. “Middle Age.” In Christian Counselor’s Manual, edited by Gary R. Collins and Lawrence M. Tornquist. Waco, TX: Word, 1980.

Robinson, Haddon W. Mid-Life: Finding Meaning in the Middle of Change. Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1982.

Sell, Charles M. Transitions Through Adult Life. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985.

Wright, H. Norman. Understanding the Man in Your Life. Waco, TX: Word, 1987.[1]

 


[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Midlife Crisis: Facing the Fork in the Road (1–11). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.


Midlife Crisis

Midlife is one of those disruptive transitions. Much has been said and written about this stage of life. The midlife years can be a time of reminiscence, growth, challenge and delight or a time of pain, frustration, frantic searching and anger. Because we see book after book written about male midlife crisis, we have come to believe that a crisis is inevitable for every man. The fact is, it is not. Only a minority of men experience a midlife crisis, whereas all men go through a midlife transition, which is a normal process.

The term “male midlife crisis” literally means changes in a man’s personality. These changes usually occur rapidly and are substantial, thus appearing both dramatic and traumatic. At this time, a man becomes aware of how he is changing physically and mentally, and even his values change. He reacts to these changes with other changes. For some, the changes are threatening. For a Christian, they present an opportunity to apply his faith and develop further toward maturity. It is not a burnout time of life, but a time of both harvest and new beginning, a time of enrichment and stability. Our interpretation of life and its events can change. The dismay and despair of confronting disappointments and unreached expectations can be shifted to realistic acceptance. As we learn from the past, the future can be different.

David C. Morley puts it this way:

To the Christian these middle-life changes have a different meaning. The change that is so threatening to the nonbeliever is an opportunity for the Christian to exercise his faith and to experience the process of true Christian maturity. The mature Christian is a person who can deal with change. He can accept all of the vicissitudes of life and not deny nor complain about them. He sees them all as the manifestation of God’s love. If God loves me, then He is going to provide an experience that makes life richer and more in line with His will. To the Christian, “All things work together for good to them that love God …” (Romans 8:28). How often we hear that Scripture quoted. How little we see it applied to real-life experiences. What God is really saying is that we should comfort ourselves with the thought that what happens in our lives, victory or defeat, wealth or poverty, sickness or death, all are indications of God’s love and His interest in the design of our lives. If He brings sickness to us, we should be joyful for the opportunity to turn to Him more completely. So often in the bloom of health, we forget to remember the God who has provided that health. When we are in a position of weakness, we are more likely to acknowledge His strength, we are more likely to ask His guidance every step of the way.

The ideal is that a Christian should be able to respond positively to the changes at midlife. But unfortunately that does not always happen. Why? In most cases it is because too many of those in our churches are not aware of the various transitions of life—especially midlife. They have not been prepared for these transitions in order to prevent a crisis. It is possible for a man to avoid the crisis by preparing for midlife in the following ways:

  1. building his sense of identity upon a solid basis and not upon his occupation and how well he does there;
  2. becoming more complete in his humanity by experiencing, accepting and expressing his feelings;
  3. developing strong and close friendships with other men;
  4. preparing for life’s changes and crises by incorporating God’s Word into his life.

The ministry of churches—if we are going to lessen some of life’s crises—is to prepare our congregations in advance for the changes they will experience. This involves educating them about these stages of life and the actual transition they will go through. In addition, they need help in applying God’s Word so that they are better able to handle life’s sudden as well as predictable changes.[1]

 

[1] Wright, H. N. (2011). The complete guide to crisis & trauma counseling: what to do and say when it matters most! (pp. 135–137). Ventura, CA: Regal.

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3 thoughts on “Christian Biblical Counsel: MIDLIFE CRISES (Updated)

  1. Pingback: Christians and Mid-life Crisis | Christianity 201

  2. Arora

    I am currently going through a sense of fatigue of being employed. I want to start something new. I have been wondering whether this is a middle life crisis situation. This is what led me to this site. Most encouraging is to know that for a Christian crisis is an opportunity to grow spiritually. It could be a situation catalized by God, yet it is important to commit this to him and wait to see. In the mean time I am looking at options of things I could do, but in a spirit open to His leading.

    Reply

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