In 1969, Peggy Lee sang a haunting song questioning life. After seeing a house go up in smoke as a child, was that all there was to things? After going to a circus, was that all there was to the big top? After being dismissed by a boyfriend, was that all there was to love? It highlights our disappointment with things, achievement, pursuing vain pleasures and loves. It’s the kind of thinking that fuels mid-life crisis.
The fingerprints of midlife crisis on marriage are all around us: midlife men of God giving up their pulpits and wives in shame, midlife women abandoning their homes and children in pursuit of pleasure.
What is midlife crisis?
New red convertible? New gym membership? Teenage wardrobe? Secret cell phone? Obsessing about your hairline and waistline? Worried about your future? Depressed? Feelings of failure? These are all symptoms of midlife crisis, but where do they come from?
To understand the source, we have to take a step back to the days when we had a whole lifetime ahead of us. We dreamed of what could be, what we wanted to accomplish, who we would marry and how many kids we would have.
And … you had all the time in the world.
Now you’re forty or fifty-ish and you have limited time left. What your life looks like is unlikely to resemble what you hoped it would be – whether that’s good or bad.
- Are you disappointed with what you have/have not accomplished, or the physical condition you are in?
- Do you have regrets for the mistakes you made along the way or the opportunities you missed?
- Perhaps you have accomplished your goals and that left you feeling empty.
But even these feelings are not midlife crisis. They’re midlife reflections. The crisis comes when these thoughts lead to bad thinking or behavior.
Crisis of biblical proportion
There once was a middle-aged man named David, who had honored God with all he had, conquered lands, built the largest kingdom in Israel, was the greatest warrior of all time – and yet, it wasn’t enough. Was he singing “Is that all there is” as he gazed down upon bathing Bathsheba, starting a downward spiral leading to having a faithful Israelite officer killed and the death of their son? (2 Samuel 11)
Midlife crisis starts out as a time of reflection. It only becomes a crisis when it leads to purchasing that new red convertible, taking Bathsheba as a lover, abandoning your family or other crazy behavior that exchanges your present life for a new one, leaving hurt family and friends in the dust.
However, midlife reflection can be a time of considering where God has brought you, what is truly important in life and to God, and how you can refocus your life in pursuit of God.
“Only one life, ’twill soon be past; Only what’s done for Christ will last.” (C.T. Studd)
Inasmuch as we love teachable moments with our kids, God loves His teachable moments with us. He loves for us to come to these uncomfortable and sometimes painful points of reflection, giving us an opportunity to get our hearts in line with His.
Why else do you think God put Ecclesiastes in the Bible? Is it possible that King Solomon was going through his own midlife crisis as he wrote this book? He was reflecting on life and all the pleasures he had taken and the toil of his labors — questioning whether it was all in vain.
You can’t go back, but you can go forward. Do you think any of those pursuits with other loves, tummy tucks, face lifts or otherwise are going to give you real peace and true happiness? Ask Solomon.
Marriage already broken?
If you have already damaged your marriage and are separated/divorced, consider if there is time to reconcile. Unless your spouse is remarried, seek the help of a counselor to help you heal, pursue and reconnect with your spouse. All things are possible with God (Matthew 19:26).
If it’s too late for this marriage, then take the time to heal and consider what God’s plans are for the rest of your life.
If you are the spouse who has been hurt, even in the event of an extramarital affair, consider this – God allows for divorce (Matthew 19:8), but it’s not what He wants. Israel was unfaithful to God and He gave her a certificate of divorce (Jeremiah 3:8), but God took her back.
We are called to be sacrificial like Jesus, forgiving even while we are yet sinners. This process is not to be taken lightly, quickly or without help, but we can heal ourselves and our marriages and bring God glory through it all if we are faithful to pursue His plans for us.
How can you inoculate your marriage from midlife crisis?
- Stay connected and pray together.
- Set your minds on God’s will for your lives and establish new goals.
- Write what you would like said about your lives in an obituary.
- Confess your sins to one another and repent.
- Attend a marriage intensive, such as a Hope Weekend offered by Live the Life.
- Pursue love God’s way in your marriage.
- Re-establish your romance. Date your spouse weekly.
- Embrace the benefits of aging and accept the imminent physical changes.
- Determine to run the good race and make the most of the time God has given you.
“Our spirits are restless until they find their rest in God.” – Saint Augustine.
Patricia Hartman, CPA is the owner of Patricia Hartman, CPA, PA, a tax and forensic accounting practice. She has worked with hundreds of divorcing clients. She is the author of “The Christian Prenuptial Agreement” available at www.ChristianPrenuptial.com. She is the president of South Florida Word Weavers and a board member of Living Water Christian Counseling.