We’re in that season of life when a midlife crisis can sneak up on you. You may not recognize it but you suddenly feel out of control.
One of the Tarr kids’ favorite pastimes is “hang riding” up the driveway. We have a long gravel driveway, and if it’s been a while since grading, crater-like divots develop, and it’s a real wild, bumpy ride.
My kids call these divots speed bumps, and the faster I go over them, the better because one of them might get some air. At the bottom of the driveway, I roll down all the windows; they jump out of the car, assume positions on the runner boards, and grab a handle inside the vehicle.
Our wild, bumpy ride with whoops and shouts of, “Faster!” commences after everyone is ready.
Wait a Minute. I Wasn’t Ready!
Midlife usually arrives differently. No big announcement is made about what’s ahead or to ask if we’re ready.
Several months ago, one of my sisters-in-law sent me a picture, commenting, “Time moves fast and slow.”
She’s right. That chunky four-month-old in the picture is now six, and the almost ten-year-old has shed glasses for contacts and car keys.
The two-year-old who regularly had screaming fits made me wonder if I and the adorable curly head in the blue dress would make it to her third and fourth birthdays. She’s now eight-and-a-half.
The little years feel endlessly long until suddenly, they’re reading and writing–and driving– and they’re not so little anymore.
Of course, it’s not really all of a sudden.
So much life happened between that picture and now. So much that to think about it makes me both exhausted and wonder at the sheer grace of God to carry us through every step of the way.
If you and I were to sit across from one another, I want to tell you that these past six (+) years have been some of the hardest and that quitting almost everything has crossed my mind.
You might ask what I mean by that, and I would share some of what I mean because you need to hear it if you’re entering into or in the thick of midlife.
That Word from the 90s.
Do you remember hearing that word as a teenager when your parents were there? They seemed so old, and that felt so far away. Until, it’s not anymore, and here I am.
Here you are.
You need to know that you’re not alone in the hard. You don’t need to be surprised by what you discover about yourself in the hard – the ugly things you wish weren’t true.
We all experience suffering. Midlife contains a lot of trials and suffering. Though they may come in different shapes and sizes at slightly different times, and it’s easy to compare them with others, we have the same God, full of endless help.
It’s easy to think that no one understands what we’re walking through, and to a degree, there’s truth there. However, we all live the same human experience of living in a fallen world, and if we walk around with that line replaying in our minds, it can be deadly. It will render us uncorrectable when we sin; we’ll isolate ourselves (Pr. 18:1), and our hearts will harden whether we realize it or not.
The Joy of Suffering
We all have a choice about how we will respond to the suffering; I’d remind you of that because I’ve needed that reminder ad nauseam.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).
Midlife is when divorces happen.
It’s when a “midlife crisis” is a thing. One can make foolish, impulsive, selfish decisions amid one of life’s most brutal, longest squeezes.
And it’s a thing not reserved only for men.
Should the Lord tarry or keep me on the earth, I have a long way to go, but I’ve learned that we don’t need to love our circumstances, even in midlife.
But we do need to love God and others, no matter the circumstances. We can even thank Him for how He is at work in our circumstances because He always is. And the Lord does tell us to rejoice in Him, always (Philippians 4:4).
Love Through the Hard Circumstances
I’d encourage you to read your Bible daily and ask the Lord to increase your love for Him and others. “Pour your heart out to Him,” I’d plead because Jesus intimately understands human suffering and can give you precisely what you need.
Go to Psalm 13 and take your grief to Him. Learn to lament in a way that leads you to trust the Lord.
And then I’d say, “Do the next thing.” Be resolved to obey the Lord, even when it’s hard.
Don’t get tripped up on regrets you might have. If you recognize past sin and are stuck there, repent and then get going doing the things the Lord has for you to do (Eph. 2:10). He’s not dwelling on your past sin, so neither should you.
Praise God for His infinite love toward us because, in trials and suffering especially, to love can feel like a herculean effort. It feels incredibly sacrificial. And that’s because it is. To love is hard because it is counter-intuitive to our flesh. Nothing in us allows us to do it well, let alone at all.
What Kind of Character Are You?
Consider who you want to be on the other side of your suffering. Your suffering, my suffering, is ripe with opportunity. We are in a liminal space between promises made and promises fulfilled—the time between when we were first saved and will be finally sanctified.
I love how author ND Wilson talks about the reality that the Lord is writing a story with each of our lives. What kind of character are you being in the squeeze of midlife? An admirable one? An honorable one? Perfection isn’t required, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Pr. 31:30).
I can tell you one thing. I am not the same person I was six years ago. There are ways I want to grow and change, unsavory ways in which I know I responded to what the Lord has brought into my life. And there are areas where I can see evident growth. I want more of that.
I desire to be a Psalm 1 woman, “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that [she] does, she prospers” (v 3).
You do, too, I know. I’d open my Bible, read Psalm 32:7-11 to you, and say, “let this be our prayer.” Well, one of our prayers. Many are needed.
Enjoy the Ride
The ride may be wild and bumpy, but the Lord taught me to think very early on in my life with Him, “always an adventure.” It’s always an adventure with Jesus, no matter what twists and turns He may lead us on.
Maybe if we learned to look at midlife the way my kids look at a ride up our driveway – rather than a time to endure, it’s an opportunity to enjoy the ride–we would come out on the other side with windblown hair, yes, but also with a smile, with peace, with maturity.
It does require us to hang on for dear life to the One who will keep us anchored. He has things He wants to accomplish in this season. If we trust Him, He’ll lead us where we need to go.
And hey, we may get some air along the way.