Midlife Dimensions

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The Spiritual Stress of Midlife

Midlife is designed by God to be the most influential time of our lives. Our potential is at its greatest, our earning power enables us to fund our pursuits, and we have less personal responsibility as our children grow up and pursue their own lives. If we lived in an innocent world, this would all be good news, but the reality is that we live in a tough, hostile, and challenging world. One of the main fronts in the battle for our best years is the spiritual struggle for our hearts and minds.

We have a tendency to think of spiritual issues as mystical and mysterious but it is actually rather simple. Jesus said, “I am the truth” in John 14:6, and John 8:44 says, “When he [the devil] lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” In simplest terms, when you are tempted to believe a lie, the spiritual battle is on. Jesus is the best friend you will ever meet and He is committed to tell you the truth every time about everything so you can become your best. In contrast, the enemy of your soul, referred to as Satan, or the devil, in the Bible, not only wants to hinder your success, he wants to hamstring your life with lies. 1 Peter 5:8 says this about Satan, “he roams around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” Satan is acutely in tune with the fact that your most influential and effective years are during your 50’s and 60’s, and he has a strategy to trip you up in your 40’s to try to prevent your influential years from being successful for you and God. God gave Satan dominion over the Earth and he has used his influence to design a world that hinders us (with lots of temptation) at every stage of life.

The Spiritual Struggle for Men
The Spiritual Struggle for Women
Prior to midlife, a man is consumed with desires, distractions and dreams. He pursues these with vigor because he feels strong and loves aggressive approaches. He is able to ignore the negative impact of his choices because he has plenty of energy and he recovers quickly. He also tends to be consumed with his interests and responsibilities to the point that he ignores his own personal growth. While he is gaining proficiency in his career and hobbies, he will begin to lag behind in relational skills, spiritual sensitivity, and balanced emotional vibrancy. Prior to midlife, these issues are boring, irritating, or unattractive. But when they become driving passions later on, he is ill-equipped to respond to their demands. For instance, a man who has not learned a balanced approach to emotional expression will find that anger is his most comfortable emotion, which is not a big deal in his twenties and thirties because it helps him become more productive. But, when he faces more sensitive needs in his forties such as the desire for intimacy, compassionate companionship, and admiration, he realizes he doesn’t know how to express his needs and desires, and just gets angry (or depressed, if he turns the anger on himself) when the needs are not met. Unfortunately, this backfires, and his anger drives away the people who could best meet these needs in his life.Likewise, a woman is consumed with personal responsibility, cares deeply for the people in her life, and for the pursuits she is involved with. She has been designed by God to make things better, therefore she has an insatiable desire to improve everything she touches. The passion she develops for her family, and outside interests, constantly energizes her to continue investing in what she truly cares about. As a result, she thrives on feedback from others and from the belief that her world is better because of her efforts. At the same time, she lives with a nagging sense that she can never do enough; there are always more personal needs to address, everyone needs more of her time, and everything needs a little more care. She may feel, and even obsess about, being prettier, smarter, more skilled, and more involved. But, in her pursuit, she is probably neglecting her own physical, emotional, or social health in some way, taking two steps backwards. As she gets close to midlife, many of the people she has invested herself in no longer need her, or they complain about the constant concern she shows for them. Rather than getting the positive feedback, or appreciation for a job well done, that she needs and deserves, she gets pushed away, criticized, and left behind. It is easy at this point to start thinking, “I deserve better. I have given my life for these people and they don’t appreciate it. It is my turn now. I need to do what I want since everyone else is taking me for granted.”


SATAN'S PLAN TO DECEIVE

Satan is “the ruler of the kingdom of the air,” Ephesians 2:2, which means he is the designer and orchestrator of the atmosphere of this world. He is actively working to keep people distracted prior to midlife to increase their vulnerability just prior to their best years. Then as midlife comes crashing in, the Devil pours on the guilt and selfishness by convincing you of lies:

  • You are such a loser.
  • You didn’t plan very well for this stage of life.
  • You have always thought of yourself as smart but look at all the dumb choices you have made.
  • Your spouse doesn’t really like you and your kids think you are lame.
  • You deserve better.
  • You have worked hard to provide and no one really appreciates you.
  • They just want to take and take and take.
  • If you stay in this situation you will never be happy, you will never like your life, and you will never discover who you are.
  • You need to escape before it is too late.”
Since Satan is “the father of lies,” it is his nature to deceive. It is, therefore, no surprise that many people in midlife believe thoughts that everyone else can tell are just not true. From a distance it is easy to see that these are all lies but to the person who is ill-equipped spiritually, these are devastating pronouncements of a shattered life. The accusations are relentless as they flood the soul with feelings of failure, disappointment, suspicion, and self-absorption. You give in to the belief that you are the most important person in your life and that your neglected needs must be met! You embrace the notion that you have been taken advantage of by the people that you used to cherish, so to heck with them. These thoughts are so real and personal that you fail to recognize them as a spiritual assault on your life. While you may feel that you have come to your senses with all of these “realizations” — when in reality you are being flooded with lies that are designed to wreak havoc in your life, and the lives of everyone you are involved with.

REALITY CHECK

How can you know if spiritual stress is fueling a midlife crisis?
  • Ask God to reveal the presence of clear lies that you are being held hostage to.
  • Write a list of your feelings, needs, and desires, then ask yourself if they are true, one by one.
  • If you have fallen prey to one or more of these lies, you will want to call it what it is (sin) and declare what is really true (confession).
  • It is best if you confess out loud so that more of your senses are engaged in the declaration of truth.
  • If you notice a loved one who is being deceived spiritually, and believing the devil’s list of lies, you will want to commit that person to prayer and specifically ask God to guard their hearts and open their minds to see what is true.