This chapter comes from The 911 Handbook, used by the permission of Hendrickson Publishers.
The 911 Handbook
(c)1997 Kent Crockett
Calming Mid-Life Crisis
The glory of young men is their strength, and the honor of old men is their gray hair. (Proverbs 20:29)
The glory of a young man is his health and physical strength. The honor of an old man is his wisdom and experience. But what about the middle-aged man? Is the benefit for his age a balding head and pot belly? Let's hope not. Someone once said that youth looks forward, old age looks backward, and middle age looks worried! Mid-life can be a traumatic time for many people. During this time of life, many are thrown into a tailspin called mid-life crisis.
Mid-life is the age group, generally speaking, between ages of thirty-five to fifty years old. Mid-life is when:
· You know all the answers--but nobody asks you the questions.
· You are too tired to work--but too broke to quit.
· Your work is less fun--and your fun is more work.
· Your narrow waist and your broad mind change places.
· You have more hair growing in your ears than on your head.
· You read the obituary page every day to see if anyone your age has died.
Just like adolescence is a transition from childhood to adulthood, mid-life is a transition from being a young person to an old person. Because the aging process is both stressful and difficult to accept, this middle age time-bomb needs to be defused.
What Causes Mid-Life Crisis?
Several factors intertwine to produce a crisis in a person's life at this age.
Factor #1 The Aging Factor: The realization you are getting old.
In Psalm 37:25, David said, "I have been young, and now I am old..." It didn't happen overnight. He wasn't young one day, then woke up the next day as an old man. It happened gradually.
When I was a child, I desperately wanted to be older. I remember looking forward to birthdays. When I was eight years old, I couldn't wait to be twelve. When I was twelve, I couldn't wait to be sixteen. And when I was sixteen, I wanted to be twenty. And when I turned thirty, I wanted to be twenty! I stepped on the accelerator of life until I reached age twenty-one. Then when I hit the brakes, I discovered they didn't work and the accelerator was stuck.
Rick Majerus, the men's basketball coach at the University of Utah, commented about his mid-life experience, "Everyone's worried about the economy this year. Hey, my hairline is in recession, my waistline is in inflation, and altogether, I'm in depression." The day will come when you, like Coach Majerus, will look in the mirror, see a receding hairline, or wrinkle, or gray hair, and think, "Hey, I'm not just getting older. I'm getting old. I thought that only happened to everyone else. But it's happening to me, too. I'm never going to be young again."
Welcome to mid-life. The negative impact the aging process makes on your face and body can also be a shock to your mind and emotions. Part of calming mid-life crisis is accepting in your mind what is taking place in your body. The crisis begins when you refuse to accept the fact you are aging.
One young man walked up to a woman and asked, "How old are you?" The lady responded, "Young man, my age is my business." The man said, "Well lady, it looks like you have been in business a long time." It is difficult for the middle-aged person to accept the fact that he is becoming more "mature" in his appearance. One of the factors contributing to mid-life crisis is realizing we are looking old-and that others are also aware of the fact.
Factor #2 The Time Factor: Time seems to pass more quickly.
Not only are you getting older, each year seems to pass a little faster than the year before. You are getting older faster. The accelerator is stuck! When you were a child, one year seemed to take forever to pass by. But when you reach age forty, one year seems to take only a few months. Each year seems to go by a little faster the older you get. This truth that can't be explained by the hands of a clock-time actually passes more quickly the older we get.
On a VCR tape, a lot of film is wound around the spindle before you start watching it. When the movie begins, the tape unwinds slowly at first. As the movie nears its end, the tape around the spindle unravels at a increasingly faster rate, even though the film you are watching is moving at normal speed.
The years of your life are like the tape wrapped around the spindle of a VCR cassette tape. When your life begins, the tape unravels slowly. But as you near the end of your life, the tape unravels faster and faster--even though the movie of your life is being played at normal speed. Mid-life brings the realization that time is unwinding at a faster pace each year. And unfortunately, you can't hit the pause button.
Factor #3 The Boredom Factor: Life becomes monotonous.
Solomon recognized life can become routine when he penned these words: "That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun." (Eccl. 1:9).
Lots of exciting changes take place between babyhood and childhood--like learning how to walk and talk. Exploring this new world is quite an adventure. Even more changes take place during the adolescent years. Dating, school activities, and learning to drive a car can bring excitement to life.
Then you get out "on your own" and get a job. At first, this too is exciting. But then things can become monotonous. You get up, go to work, and come home. By the time you reach age forty, you have been getting up, going to work, and coming home for two decades. Life can become routine and boring. The boredom factor can contribute to mid-life crisis.
Factor #4 The Failure Factor: Goals you haven't been reached.
As you were growing up, you were going to be a millionaire by age thirty. You are now forty and just trying to get the bills paid each month. You were going to be a star quarterback in the NFL. But instead of playing in the NFL, you are watching it on television on Sunday afternoons.
The goals you set for yourself were never accomplished. The dreams died a long time ago. The motivation you had for reaching those goals has also disappeared. You may even conclude that you are a failure in life. This lack of motivation or purpose in life can be a primary cause for mid-life crisis. The middle-ager may panic and begin to search for a new reason to live.
Factor #5 The Re-evaluation Factor: Regrets over past decisions.
The mid-lifer has had plenty of time to reflect upon the decisions he has made thus far in his life. He reviews his marital and career choices and may conclude his dissatisfaction is due to wrong decisions he has made. He may think he married the wrong woman, chose the wrong career, or moved to the wrong city. It's probably not true, but in his mind he is convinced it is.
In order to correct these mistakes, he attempts to rewind the VCR tape. He tries to start life over again by making drastic changes to bring excitement back to his life. He may change vocations. He may want to move to a new location or leave his wife and family. If he allows the crisis to take hold of him, he will act as if he has lost his mind. None of his decisions will make any kind of sense to a normal person. But the person undergoing mid-life crisis is not normal. He is experiencing a form of temporary insanity that has distorted his view of life. The good news is that the crisis doesn't last forever. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
What a Mid-Life Person Needs to Do
First, Don't panic!
A person going through mid-life crisis is tempted to panic. If you panic, you are almost guaranteed to make bad decisions. It is not wise to make any decisions if you are either on an emotional high or an emotional low. Decisions made on an emotional roller-coaster will nearly always be wrong ones.
Keep Calm. Get a grip on life. Realize that mid-life crisis is a phase you are going through. This too, will pass.
Second, Accept the fact that mid-life is a part of God's plan for you.
"There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven...He has made everything appropriate in its time." (Eccl. 3:1,11)
There is an appointed time for everything and that includes mid-life. God has plans for you at your age. You are exactly where you are supposed to be at this time in your life. He has made you appropriate for this stage of life.
Third, Realize the benefits in every stage in life.
God has made everything appropriate, or beautiful, in its time. There are advantages and disadvantages to every stage in life. Proverbs 20:29 says when a man is young, his strength is his advantage. But the disadvantage of his age is he lacks wisdom and experience. On the other hand, the older man has wisdom and experience, but he lacks strength.
The mid-life person has a little of both. He has some strength and some wisdom. The secret to happiness in life is understanding the benefits of your age, whatever they may be. Otherwise you will be like the man who spent his youth trying to gain a fortune, then spent a fortune trying to gain youth. God wants you to enjoy your life at every age. Focus on the benefits of what you have right now. If you don't make the most of the present, you will one day regret the past.
Fourth, Find meaning in life through serving God.
Real meaning and purpose in life does not come through impressing people in this world. It comes from serving and obeying God. We can only be fulfilled in life when we live for Him. "Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, 'I have no delight in them.'" (Eccl. 12:1).
Only a fool lives for the applause of this world. After a person dies, he will be forgotten by everyone except for a few loved ones. There is no lasting remembrance after someone dies. "For there is no lasting remembrance of the wise man as with the fool, inasmuch as in the coming days all will be forgotten..." (Eccl. 2:16) Life only becomes meaningful when it embraces God's eternal purpose.
Fifth, Look to the future with hope.
"For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." (Jer. 29:11). If you are in mid-life, God is not finished with you yet. The back nine still needs to be played. The game is not over at half-time. You can't turn back the hands of the clock and replay the first half. But you can play the second half. The rest of your life really can be the best of your life. God still has good plans for you.
After a pastor preached his sermon one Sunday, a man commented to him, "Reverend, what you said today in your sermon was exactly what I needed to hear.
Thank you very much. It was so helpful to me. It revolutionized my life. Thank you!" The pastor replied, "I'm glad I said something that was so helpful to you, but I'm curious--what in particular was it?" "Well, you began your sermon by saying that you wanted to talk to us about two things this morning. Then in the middle you said,
'That completes the first part of what I wanted to tell you and now it's time I moved on to the second part.' At that moment I realized I had come to the end of the first part of my life and it was high time that I got on to the second part. Thank you, Reverend!"
That's the message to the mid-lifer. The first half may have been good, but the second half can be even better.
1 Leadership, Fall 1995, p. 47.
2 M. Scott Peck, Further Along the Road Less Traveled, Simon & Schuster, 1993, pp. 155-156.