But ask someone in the developing world, or the ‘real world’ as some would call it, and they would have no clue what you’re talking about. It’s debateable whether such a thing even really exists or if it is merely a ‘first-world social construct’.
Only we in the west have the privilege, or should I say, the audacity, to be discontent with our wealth. To question whether we are as happy as we had hoped to be, or whether our house is as big as we dreamed of, or our children as well-behaved, our jobs as satisfying, and our relationships as fulfilling as we dreamed of as children is rooted in a false sense of entitlement.
The underlying premise, whether spoken or not, is that we deserve to be happy. A singer of Christian contemporary music left her husband for another man because she said, “I wasn’t happy, and God doesn’t want us to be unhappy.” But God’s ‘goal’, if we can put it that way, is not our happiness, but our holiness.
So is a mid-life crisis real? Not in the sense that we use it to justify extravagant purchases or be discontent with our lives. It’s just a coincidence that many major life events occur in the fifth decade of our lives; that taken together, can feel like a crisis. During that time we may have a change or loss of a job, experience an empty nest, the death of our parents, a health crisis, or marriage breakup, for some.
These crises would lead us to reflect on our lives. At that age, we realize we may have only 20-30 productive years left before our bodies or minds begin to fail us. We hear that clock ticking. We are on this conveyer belt of life and we know it’s not slowing down because we want it to.
That can be good or bad. Bad, if we compare ourselves to others. There’s the myth of the greener grass in our neighbour’s yard. We play, ‘if only’, and inwardly spurn the gifts God has given us. We may have regrets, remembering our early dreams and goals, feeling we have not accomplished them.
We can be discontent and look for a change in circumstances or relationships to improve our situation. We can turn to ‘retail therapy’ to fill a void. That void cannot be filled with ‘things’. Our satisfaction must be in Christ.
So how can a mid-life crisis, if we’ll call it that, be good. Only if we use the time of reflection on past blessings, and even trials, as well as a recognition that we are mortal, to consider how we can use the blessings God has given us, not for our own satisfaction, but for God’s glory and the benefit of others.
“Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” C.T. Studd
First Published in Summer 2013 issue of Barnabas magazine