Six years ago, my husband and I both turned 50, and celebrated our 25-year wedding anniversary. Our children planned a beautiful surprise party for us, complete with friends who generously gave meaningful gifts and who brought delicious food, shared encouraging words, congratulated us, and there was even a display of photos of my husband and I that had been taken over the years. It was a fun evening and it meant so much to us that our children and our friends had taken the time to plan such a wonderful event.
I am grateful God has helped us make it to 25 years (and beyond) of marriage and that we’ve had the privilege of living for over 50 years. But if I am going to be 100% honest, it’s really hard to wrap my brain around the fact that I am actually at this point in life.
Why Middle Age Can Be a Difficult Season of Life
This middle aged (and beyond) season can be a difficult time. All the things you anticipated when you were younger - college, a career or ministry, marriage, raising children - you have now experienced them. What is left to anticipate?
It can seem like what you are left with is:
- Adult children who don’t really need you anymore
- Aging parents and saying goodbye to the ones who raised you
- A body that doesn’t quite work as it once did.
You find yourself staring at the younger generation, often feeling like what you have to offer isn’t relevant. You are tired, feel like you are out of the loop, outdated, and not needed.
On top of these realities, mid-life can be equally as difficult in the church.
Somewhere along the line, it seems as though you’ve gone from being a vital part of a congregation to a person who suddenly has little to offer. Churches often spend much of their time meeting the needs of families and children (which is very important), and when you find yourself in the middle age and older years, it seems you are vital yet invisible - needed for things like babysitting, nursery duty, or bringing a casserole to a dinner - yet having little input into the life of the church, and left with very few people pursuing you as a person or entering into the trials of life that come with grown children, declining, elderly parents, and a body that is aging. It’s as if the church suddenly doesn’t know what to do with you.
How do we process all of what comes with this season and not withdraw, become bitter, or give up? God has been guiding me over the past few years, and the things that He has taught me have increased my zeal for him and has breathed life into a season that could have been characterized by discouragement and lack of purpose. Here is what He has been teaching me:
6 Things You Can Do This Week if Mid-Life Lacks Excitement:
1. Reflect on what God has done in your life.
Take some time to reflect and remember all that God has done up to this point in your life. Think about your childhood, the education God allowed you to have, and the life experiences God has walked you through. These are the things God has used in your life to make you more like him and equip you for what you are called to do in this moment and time. It was his plan for your life and is what made you who you are today. You can move forward in confidence in all that God has done, and in how he has equipped you to serve him.
“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I consider the work of Your hands.” - Psalm 143:5
“Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders You have done, and the plans You have for us--none can compare to You--if I would proclaim and declare of them, they are more than could be numbered.” - Psalm 40:5
2. Remember God’s faithfulness and cling to his promises.
One of the Biblical callings of the older generations is to proclaim God’s faithfulness to those who are coming after them. Before we can do this, we need to know and embrace our calling, and we need to have taken the time to remember all He has done! You have several decades of life that speaks of God’s faithfulness! And if you have been obedient and faithful, you also have a life that backs up the words you speak. Don’t be afraid to proclaim God’s faithfulness. And if those around you aren’t listening, find someone who will listen!
“One generation shall commend your works to another and shall declare your mighty acts.”- Psalm 14:54
“So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” - Psalm 71:18
3. Reject the lies!
Church life can be difficult at any age because we live in a fallen world and the church is full of sinners. Yes, it can seem like we are no longer needed, invisible, irrelevant or outdated, but those are all lies.
We are not called to be committed to a pastor, a program, or a building, but to the body of Christ. That is an important truth to hold on to, because if we don’t keep that in the forefront of our minds, we will want to quit when we are misunderstood, devalued, not pursued, or don’t feel seen.
Ask God to lead you to specific people and ministries. You can be confident in God’s leading if you have taken the time to reflect and can see the common thread of how he has used and equipped you, and how that has been woven throughout the years of your life.
“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” - Hebrews 10:2
“For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.” - 1 Corinthians 3:4-5
4. Refresh those around you.
Whether it be at your job/ministry, in your neighborhood, in your marriage, in the lives of your grown children, friendships and acquaintances in and outside of the church, you can look for ways to breathe life into the lives those around you. I would venture to say that, even though it may feel like we are invisible in this season in our lives, there are people that we see on a daily basis who also feel invisible and need someone to acknowledge and refresh them! Make that your goal. Pray for the eyes to see those who need to be refreshed.
“The generous man will be prosperous, And he who waters will himself be watered.” - Proverbs 11:25
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." - Matthew 7:12
Take some time to walk through your home and pray. How does God want to use the space he has provided for you? Now that your kids are grown, are there changes that can be made that might set the stage for you to use your home in a new way for his purposes?
This was one of the things that I did that brought a lot of enjoyment into this season. My home is small, but I have always loved making it a space that is colorful, homey, a place where I can serve, encourage, and accommodate others. With both of my children grown, and God using my giftings in a bigger way, I was able to turn my daughter’s room into an office where I can write. I put a daybed in my new office that is easily converted into a bed for anyone who might need to spend the night. I also use it when people come over and we need a private, comfortable place to talk or pray.
I love this new room and have had so much fun decorating it. It has been updated to accommodate this season of life and the ministry God has been preparing me to do.
If you’re struggling in mid-life, I’d encourage you to take an afternoon, or even a weekend or longer if you’re able, and retreat. Get away from the daily grind and spend some time both reflecting back on where you've come from, and looking forward in anticipation to the second half of your life. If you’re able, spend some time answering these questions, quietly with yourself, and then with a spouse, sibling or close friend.
Questions to Answer for a Mid-Life Retreat:
1. Look back and remember: how has God gone before you in your life? How has he been faithful? What big prayers has he answered?
2. Look forward and anticpate: how do you see God going forward for you today?
3. What lies do you need to reject?
4. What ministries might God be calling you in this season? What brings your heart joy?
5. Who are the specific people God is calling you to serve?
6. How might God be calling you to use your home in new ways in this season of life?
Gina Smith and her husband have served on a Christian college campus as the on-campus parents for over 20 years. They have lived on the campus where they homeschooled and raised both of their children. In her spare time she loves to write and recently authored her first book, “Grace Gifts: Practical Ways To Help Your Children Understand God's Grace." She also writes at her personal blog: ginalsmith.com.