If ever there was a man in the Bible going through a midlife crisis, it was King Solomon. 

King Solomon attained record achievements in education, wealth, work projects, and the pursuit of pleasure, which included 700 wives and 300 concubines. Talk about a busy man with a full schedule! In the end, he despaired that it was all “meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1-8, NIV). 

At some point in our lives, we all start to ask questions of ourselves. The world is no longer the oyster of our youth. Reflecting at the years gone by, and pondering the years to come, we face thoughts of our mortality for the first time. Are we who we want to be? Will we ever be? Does it even matter?

We may have reached our life goals only to discover that it wasn’t all that it was chalked up to be. We may despair about ever reaching our potential. Or we may learn we were climbing the wrong ladder all along. 

We discover who we truly are. It may be different from who we thought we were. Heck, even the world isn’t what we thought it was. 

Here are six ways to help you in your journey through midlife, based loosely on Jonathan Rauch’s research in his book The Happiness Curve.

1. Take Your Burdens to God

Many people going through midlife look like they have it all together on the outside. Juggling multiple work and family roles, it’s all too easy to downplay our feelings, even when we’re cracking under the weight of the responsibilities.

Talk to God about the things weighing on you. Pour your heart out to Him and unburden yourself. He loves you and understands. You’re not the first person to have these feelings.

Midlife can be a time of immense heartbreak—a time when disappointment and disillusionment come to a head. We’ve hit enough devastating life setbacks that make us reluctant to hope again.

It’s important to process these griefs if we are to dream again. Some people find it easier to journal on paper, others prefer talking aloud to Him. Whatever you do, take it all to Him. Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (NIV).

2. Don’t Ignore God’s Calling

Perhaps after some prayer, you discover that you hear a still, small voice. It might be God leading you in a new direction. But you’ve squashed the voice out of fear. Fear of failure, fear of the cost, fear of too much change, fear of not having enough time, fear of it being a fantasy.

Don’t let fear stop you from God’s best for you. You may have heard the saying, delayed obedience is disobedience. Hebrews 3:15 says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” Don’t put off the things that God has put on your heart today for someday in the future. 

Let’s obey God today.

3. Accept the Season You Are In

For many of us, however, we are right where God wants us, and we are trying to find meaning in our day-to-day lives. So why does a low level of discontent grumble from within?

Indeed, midlife is a challenging time, where people are sandwiched between stressful jobs, growing kids, and aging parents. In his book The Happiness Curve, Jonathan Rauch describes the well-documented U-curve that shows a drop in life satisfaction for people in their midlife years, irrespective of life circumstances, income, and health. 

A smile represents the happiness curve, with the dip representing a midlife slump
The happiness curve is in the shape of a smile, with the dip representing the midlife years.
Photo: Marco Verch under Creative Commons 2.0

The happiness curve is in the shape of a smile. In general, people’s younger years are characterized by hope and optimism, followed by doubt and discontent in their 40s and 50s, and then wisdom and gratitude in their 60s and beyond. In other words, we are overly optimistic in our youth about how much satisfaction we will get out of reaching our future goals, hence the disappointment. 

Fortunately, Raunch’s findings show that the midlife slump is more about people’s perception of life, not about their actual circumstances. People’s moods tend to improve with the simple passing of time. In other words, hang on, and ride it out.

This is good news! No matter how things are going right now—or how overwhelmingly busy you feel—keep in mind that this is only a season. The Bible says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Kids grow up, jobs change, people retire. Nothing is forever.

Let’s keep a big-picture perspective. The next season is around the corner—and we can never come back to the present.

4. Seek Wisdom 

According to Rauch, one of the traits that help people feel better after their midlife dip is increased wisdom. We, too, can benefit from seeking and increasing wisdom, regardless of our age. 

There are a few ways we can do this. First, we pray and ask God to give us wisdom. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Second, we meditate on the book of Proverbs. We make the pursuit of wisdom a top priority. As Proverbs 16:16 says, “How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!” Increased discernment impacts every other aspect of our life, including the choices we make, protecting us from any impulsive midlife decisions.

Ecclesiastes is another book filled with nuggets of wisdom for the midlife journey. As mentioned earlier, King Solomon spends a lifetime accomplishing and accumulating, only to conclude that it was all meaningless in the end. 

In the final chapter, he arrives at the secret of life: faith in God gives meaning to life. Without Him, all worldly pursuits are meaningless (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). Let’s learn from Solomon, who learned these lessons the hard way, so we don’t have to.

5. Practice Contentment

Another trait that accompanies greater life satisfaction later in life is increased contentment. Having gone through more of the ups and downs of life, people who are older would be more able to relate to the apostle Paul, who wrote, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:12).

In Inc. Magazine, Jeff Haden writes that midlife happiness starts to improve when “…we gradually accept that failing to achieve every dream we once held dear isn’t the end of the world, and slowly start to focus more on enjoying what we do have than what we don’t.”

No matter where we are in the U-curve, contentment will go a long way. As 1 Timothy 6:6 says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” Contentment helps us appreciate what we have right now, rather than focus on what we want tomorrow. And it is something we have control of—today.

6. Stop for Rest Breaks

Finally, we sometimes just get plain burned-out halfway through life. It has nothing to do with our circumstances, but more to do with our life rhythm.

We need to make sure that we are practicing a regular rhythm of daily, weekly, and yearly rest times to recharge. In the Bible, we see the Jewish people celebrating yearly festivals, God commanding a weekly Sabbath, and Jesus withdrawing early in the mornings to pray. 

Rest breaks are part of God’s mercy to us to replenish us along the way, like water held out to thirsty marathon runners in a race. Let’s not turn away His goodness and grace when He holds out refreshment to us. He will give us the strength and encouragement that we need—no matter where we are on the U-curve.

Recap: How to Cope with Midlife Malaise

  1. Take Your Burdens to God
  2. Don’t Ignore God’s Calling
  3. Accept the Season You Are In
  4. Seek Wisdom
  5. Practice Contentment
  6. Stop for Rest Breaks

Which of these would be most beneficial to you? How can you start applying it to your life today?

Reflection:

“I asked for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.

I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for, but everything that I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.”

—Unknown soldier

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash

Share this:

Tagged in:

, , ,