Your Early, Late, or Midlife Crisis!


November 2003

Dear Ministry Partner,

It is very common for people to have an early, late, or mid-life crisis. Do you feel like you have lost direction, motivation, or purpose? Do you know someone who has either dropped out of life into depression, or flipped out of life into sin or inappropriate behavior? Going through my mid-life years, I have interacted with an ever increasing number of people who have demonstrated these symptoms. I have discovered the "disease" is common, understandable, and treatable. The best resource I found, Weathering the Midlife Storm, said the symptoms include:

  • Do you feel "stuck" in life?

  • Don't feel like anything is "worth it?" Maybe don't even feel like being around people at all?

  • Feel life is just slipping by — like a fast moving stream you are not a part of?

  • Don't feel like others understand you? Don't feel like you understand yourself?

  • Feel your self-confidence is gone? Feel you will never be "promoted"? Not sure you want it?

  • Feel very, very lonely — even though people would say you had friends?

  • Wonder if you married the right person? Or feel you may never get married?

  • Feel you're getting "old"? Wondering what is wrong with your body? Noticing you are aging?

  • Feel you must have taken a "wrong turn" in life, and you just now noticed?

  • Feel God's distant, uncaring, silent, or not coming through for you — maybe doesn't even exist?

"Life is difficult" as my father once told me. Everyone has challenges at times. But to a person in a "mid-life crisis," the problems have seemed so deep, numerous, complex, and endless — it seems as if they have found themselves in a massive snowstorm, a "whiteout" or blowing blizzard. They can wonder, "If this is life, is it worth living?" This can happen in a person's life as early as teens and 20's, in mid-life in 30's through 50's, and late in life at age 60 through 80's.

The first step in coming out of this condition is to realize what got you into it. Typically, there is a trigger. The trigger is an uncommon, disappointing life event. It can be a divorce, spouse affair, death of a child/spouse/parent or other loved one, job loss, retirement, house fire, financial reversal, empty nest syndrome, health crisis, or the dashing of any kind of dream/goal/hope. It could start from a catastrophe like a spouse being killed by a drunk driver, to something as small as noticing you are starting to get gray hair. Trace back your feelings. Is there an obvious life event where it started? Sometimes the trigger is more subtle, like life dreams that appear to not be developing or maybe just unmet emotional needs (absence of love, appreciation, respect, security).

The second step in coming out of this condition is to get a safe person involved in your situation who is not in your "blizzard" — one who can see clearly enough to help guide you out (or at least can see reality correctly for you). This person can be like an air traffic controller who can give direction to a pilot flying through fog or clouds. God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone." (Genesis 2:18). This friend should not be of the opposite sex (unless it is your spouse). However, sometimes your spouse may be experiencing the same condition. This helpful person needs to be a spiritual, selfless friend — lest he or she take advantage and steer you in a way that is selfishly motivated. You may feel embarrassed to open up and talk to someone about the feelings you are having — but to do otherwise is pride and isolation (playing right into the devil's hands). Women are better at talking things out with a friend — which is probably why men are the stereotype at having a mid-life crisis.

It should be pointed out that no one needs to have a mid-life "crisis." It can simply be a mid-life "re-evaluation." Some mid-course "corrections" can be very valuable. Airplanes, boats, even Apollo moon shots manned by the smartest people in America did mid-course corrections. This condition only becomes a "crisis" if a person turns to sin or suicide to deal with the feelings they are having. If a person is burned out in his job, maybe feels his wife is not cooperative, as well as disappointed in his kids' obedience — and therefore might choose to divorce his family, buy a sports car, and have an affair with his secretary, then that person has just created a "crisis." But being burned out in a job may just call for a time to change jobs or careers. Disobedient kids can call for a time of re-evaluating your parenting techniques. You get the idea.

The third step to coming out of this condition is to get some Godly information on the topic. "God's people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." (Hosea 4:6). If you were diagnosed with some disease, you should naturally want to know more about it. If it was serious, you should get 2 or 3 opinions from qualified experts. The same is true for an early, late, or mid-life crisis. Denial accomplishes nothing positive, and can delay the cure. And you don't want to read some half-baked secular self-help psychology book that tells you to "punch your pillow" or "go back to your childhood" as the cure for truly dealing with the loss, injustice, or anger in your life.

The fourth step is to go towards the cure, not a bandage. Many people try to drown or numb their feelings and pain with alcohol, drugs, food, materialism, workaholism, busy-ness, even fantasy, to avoid reality. The true cure is more of God — His presence, His anointing, His ways, and His plan for your life. This is what we were designed to have and be. This is true "healing." Nothing else will fulfill or satisfy. Many people feel like if they just got their job back, their money back, their spouse back, their health or youth back, then they would be happy. This is an illusion. People commit suicide regularly who are fully employed. And the number three cause of death (after accidents and homicide) in people aged 15 to 24 is suicide (in fact it is the number one cause of death in men under age 35 in the United Kingdom). So much for the notion that being young and healthy would fix everything.

Jesus Christ is the Answer. He is your Savior, healer, deliverer, restorer, sustainer — He is the life of God. His eternal resurrection power, divine nature, invisible attributes — these are already within you if you are born-again. "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" (James 4:8). God is not trying to be distant, silent, or cold — He is trying to be a gentleman (and honor your free will). God says, "Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know" (Jer. 33:3). Be totally honest with God and talk to Him about your life, your hurts, your needs. Don't try to get "religious" — trying to "please God through good works". Get into God's Word — not to "work to please God", but for fellowship, devotion, and strength. Get a Living Bible and read Psalms and Proverbs. You will find that great men of God went through similar periods in their lives — and came out of it with time. And it does take time — often months, sometimes years. But the circumstances which led to the condition often took months or years to develop. So understand you can walk out of it with time, but you need to be heading the right direction (God’s will for your life) and at least making some progress each day.

And one of the most important keys for overcoming burnout in general is forgiveness — both giving and receiving. A pair of famous Christian psychiatrists did an extensive study of people being treated for burnout in their clinics, and the one common issue that they all had was bitterness and unforgiveness. This is what was "short-circuiting" their soul and draining all their emotional energy and drive. There will always be people who allow the devil to use them as "unforgiveness bait", but they will pay for their choices (Luke 17:1-5), and we don’t need to be bitter or try to get even (Romans 12:17-21). We just need to "walk in love" and keep our eyes on Jesus — the author and finisher of our faith and His will for our lives.

Helping others back on track,

Dale & Judi Leander


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