Saturday, February 02, 2008

Shattered Dreams and Mid Life Crisis

My blogging friend Ted Gossard posted yesterday on how mid life can be a difficult time for many. Here's a brief excerpt from his blog:

"Recently I heard that age 44 is either the average or median age for adults worldwide feeling at their lowest. Of course we refer to this as "mid-life crisis." By that time there is a sense of having given up on one's dreams. And one is vulnerable then, to make huge mistakes."

Having just turned 44 myself, this naturally caught my attention. I must say that I'm actually as happy as I've ever been in my life. Yet, there is no doubt that mid life can pose particular challenges. As Ted correctly mentions, many difficulties stem from the realization that your dreams or aspirations might not be fulfilled. One of the first posts on this blog was on this very topic as I was reading through the book, Lost in the Middle by Paul Tripp. The point then and now, is simply that mid life doesn't really cause new problems (ok, maybe a few). Mid life actually reveals who we really are - what we really worship and who we truly love.

Ted says that mid life can lead a person to making "huge mistakes". If so, what are the keys to navigating through this period successfully? I'm no expert since I'm in right in the throes of the mid life but here are a few thoughts that have been helpful to me -

Every day is a gift - Some people hate the thought of getting older and diminishing faculties but what's the alternative? It's arrogant to take our lives for granted. Every day we have, to live together, to love others and to experience the grace of God in this present life, is truly a gift. It is not owed to us.

Dream new dreams - There's no doubt that I'm a dreamer - it's how God made me. As I've often remarked in jest, it's both a blessing and a curse! As our dreams are lost in mid life , we can trust God to give us new dreams and new aspirations, often reshaped with renewed purpose. Rather than resisting this, perhaps we can look forward in anticipation to what He'll do.

Trusting God - I know it can sound trite and simplistic but it's not. Taken from Jerry Bridges' book from the same title, this means knowing God as all powerful, all loving and all wise. Our dreams are in God's hands and He will do as He desires. Yet, we can take comfort that He exercises His will lovingly with untraceable wisdom.

It also helps me to remember the cross of Christ. In the wisdom of God, His divine love was extended to us according to His sovereign plan...maybe we can trust Him with our dreams after all.

What is your experience? Even if you're not in the throes of mid life, do share your thoughts.


Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, ESI, very good thoughts here and thanks for referring to my post and really, improving on it.

I will say that while it is certainly true that mid-life crisis can reveal who we're really worshiping, I also would like to think that there can be more to it, than that.

Take the case of Job. He was a true worshiper of God. But after continuing to worship and trust in God in spite of losing his children, wealth and health- we then find that he indeed went through the throes of a huge crisis, cursing even the day of his birth, questioning God, and challenging God to vindicate him in his integrity.

His response to what he was going through was more than understandable, when you consider it. But it wasn't without sin, I believe. This is evidenced in
God's words to him, when finally breaking His silence and the din of his friends (although by that time they had given up, and his young friend Elihu, had given his thoughts): "Who is this who darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?"

I think this can all be a part of getting rid more and more of that which is worthless in our lives, and at times the crisis can be great.

In the end, of course, really none of Job's questions were answered. God has countered with questions of his own, to point Job to the awesomeness and wonder of who He is through His creation. And in the end, Job was satisfied in that he now had a revelation of God that made his past knowledge, mere hearsay in his eyes. The answer was in God himself.

Not to deny that it can point out what we're worshiping. And we all do struggle at times with idols of the heart, as Calvin, I believe, pointed out (not to mention God's word in Ezekiel).

I think other factors can be involved also, such as disappointment with God. This is seen in the psalmists. It's something that should not shake our faith, but perhaps to redirect and refine it, realizing that the true goal beckons us to go and grow beyond the human goals and thoughts we have, that while right in their place, can so easily be out of place.

Thanks again, ESI.

I especially like your thoughts about dreaming new dreams beyond the shattered dreams that can haunt us during our mid-life. Great and good point, and oh, so important, if we're to hope of finishing the race set before us in Jesus, well.

Rachel Mc said...

I think the mid life "crisis" people experience all comes down to that word "trust". I guess most people come to this point in their lives feeling inadequate, unsucessful, stuck in a rut, etc. But it just comes down to trusting God, yourself, and the other important people in your life. Your statement that mid life actually reveals who we really are scares me. So the people who make huge mistakes and cause devastation and destruction to those around them are showing who they really are? I hope not. I think the mid life crisis shows their weaknesses and lack of faith; lack of trust in God and those around them. And most importantly a lack of trust in keep going on and redefining their dreams. A mid life crisis can cause such destruction and the effects can be irreversible..but then again trust comes into action. The family and friends have to let go and trust God to deal with and solve the mid life crisis. Trust....that word is so powerfulful and so casually thrown around that I think people don't understand what God intends trust to be (an action word)so people don't cherish trust and nurture it and reach out to ask for it or share it. Trust, I had reason to hate that word but God is slowly giving me reason to believe in trust again. I have redefined my dreams, not by my choice but definitely with God's leadership.

Every Square Inch said...


Thanks for commenting and for sparking this conversation with your initial post.

Regarding Job, your point is well taken but I don't his situation is one of a crisis revealing an idol of the heart. In fact, I think that he is a good, although imperfect example of how to navigate through tough times. He encountered trials - he recognized God's sovereign hand but also trusted in God's vindication even when others accused him.

The crux of Job's story is that he had to trust God even when he didn't understand why bad things were happening - it's the notion of the hidden wisdom of God.

Every Square Inch said...


Thank you for commenting and joining the conversation. When I say, midlife reveals who we are, I simply mean this - our weaknesses, hidden agenda and impure motives that are obscured when we are younger, often come to light in this stage of life. Sometimes these hidden sins and weaknesses are obscured even to ourselves.

And, yes - it is scary. For instance, we can appear to be trusting God when what we've done is constructed a safe life, buffered from hardship. Sometimes, what happens in mid life is that trials and difficulties can come upon us unexpectedly and our response at that point tell us
whether we truly trust our Savior.

It's humbling and we realize, like Job that apart from God's help and vindication, we are found wanting.

Mark Goodyear said...

I'm only 33, so I'm not sure I'm at midlife yet. Still, this has been a reflective year for me since it is the age Jesus died.

You know the logic. He saved the universe at my age. What have I done lately? Granted, he was God, and I'm not...

Still, your post reminded me of a radio spot Howard Butt recorded last year called "Life Doesn't Card You at the Door." It lists some pretty famous accomplishments made by folks well into their lifetime.

Just take a look at Lewis. He didn't publish the first Narnia book until he was 52.

All that to say, I really resonated with your second point: Dream New Dreams. After all, that's what old folks do, right? (cif Joel 2:28)

Every Square Inch said...


Thanks for your thoughts. 33 is no where near mid-life but you can often encounter such experiences earlier in life. I had such an experience when I was 37 and my wife was diagnosed with cancer. It wasn't expected and it revealed much about myself, not all of it good.

But God was faithful to strengthen and restore me.

We need to keep dreaming - God will give us new dreams - better yet, they will be centered on Him and not on ourselves.

mark said...

with all this encouraging conversation here i have been won to revise any comment from my forest several times before posting.

so, here is the boiled down version, but not quite as good as québécois maple syrup.

1. mid-life, perhaps "mid" could be helpfully visualized to be running within the path we walk, not just a point dividing the number line

Dreams and Jesus
2. Jesus was certainly a radical in a time of poverty and oppression for what must be dreams to us teaching ideas such as "abide in me and my words in you and ask for any thing you which and it will be given to you."

aside from how i am tempted to convolutedly qualify Jesus words to fit my lack of faith(the faith James speaks of) it is yet straight forward and simple, impossible for me to accept, but an underlying conceptual component within it is: take the limits off, stop doubting, dream, be like a child, God is your Father in personality and relationship as much as He is Divine.

3. certainly our dreams must mature as we mature, our dreams for His kingdom come. perhaps we feel the mid-life crisis most when He takes us at a 90 degree turn when along the way we were not adjusting bit by bit.

L.L. Barkat said...

Yes, I think it could lead to terrible mistakes; on the other hand, finally becoming sober concerning oneself can lead to great discovery and change.

Ted M. Gossard said...

In what I said I was saying that Job was an exception to the idea that it's always an idol-in-the-heart problem. I don't think so, in his case.

Maybe I am being too hard on him in what I said, because I would agree that he is in line with the Biblical witness in how to navigate difficult trials, such as in the imprecatory psalms. Though I will say that in some of those imprecatory psalms, I would have a hard time not seeing the pray-er as sinning, or better, expressing a sinful attitude. But it's good for us to do that in prayer to the One who can help us and change us.

Anonymous said...

It's abit encouraging to see others are feeling this lack of orientation that I'm now experiencing at 45 years old. It's really impossible to descibe this to anyone not living in the same trench. I've been a committed Christian for over 22 years and a very type "A" person. After grad school, a high paying job, and a beautiful family, I'm feeling guilty for feeling like I need a new mountain to climb. I'm truly thankful for everything God has given me...but feel like I need re-direction.

Every Square Inch said...

Anonymous, thanks for your honest comment. As others have found trusting God through this time is crucial - He has promised to lead His children.

It's also important to use times of "crisis" like these to examine our hearts. For instance, what motivates us to find another mountain to climb. Is it motivated by self fulfillment or to honor and obey God?

May God lead and direct you to the right answer.

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