Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

6 Productive Things to Do When Midlife Crisis Hits

6 Productive Things to Do When Midlife Crisis Hits

No one plans to have a midlife crisis. It just kind of creeps up on you one day when you realize you’re not as young and thin and all together as you used to be. It also tends to happen when you aren’t content with where you are in life—physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

Midlife crisis can come your way through a restlessness that makes you feel you’re missing out on something, or you’re not as happy as you could be, or you’re tired of rules, regulations, or expectations (like having to stay married, having to work at a job you don’t like, or having accountability).

Once you recognize the warning signs of a midlife crisis it will help if you have a plan so you don’t end up doing something that you will later regret. Whether you see the winds of restlessness coming your way, or if you’re already in the whirlwind, here are six productive things to do when a midlife crisis hits:

1. Look for ways to serve.

Did you know the #1 mistake people make in midlife is that they start (or continue) thinking only of themselves? Their happiness. Their future. Their moment to live carefree. But when we get in servant mode and think of others first, it removes the “I” and “me” in our vocabulary that the Bible says is intent on destruction. James 3:16 tells us where selfish ambition exists, “there you find disorder and every evil practice” (NIV).

Remember the old song you may have learned in Sunday School years: “Jesus, then others, then you. What a wonderful way to spell joy.” Joy comes through serving. If midlife has you down, start looking for others in a far worse position than you and serve them. As you serve, God always shows up. And Psalm 16:11 assures us “In [His] presence is fullness of joy” (NASB). 

2. Read some great books.

Have you ever thought (or heard) the saying, “Too many books, too little time”? Start developing that motto, and then attacking it as a challenge to read more of the great books that are available to you, physically or online.

If you’re not a reader, become one during midlife. You may discover that you absolutely love reading mysteries or science fiction, or American classics like Charles Dickens (Great Expectations – amazing!) or Nicholas Sparks novels (which are often even better than the movies). Invest in your spiritual life and knowledge of God by reading some of the writers of Christian Classics like Henry Nouwen, A.W. Tozer, Oswald Chambers, Teresa of Avila, or St. John of the Cross. You will not only exercise your mind (which could help delay memory failure as you age), but you will grow mentally and spiritually, too.

In addition to the Bible, some of the most life-changing books I’ve read through the years include The Pursuit of God and Man: The Dwelling Place of God by A.W. Tozer, Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray, Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby, A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller, and The End of Me by Kyle Idleman. Good books will sharpen you in – and in some ways protect you from – a difficult season of life.

3. Reach out to a mentor.

All around you are people who are older than you and have either gone through what you are considering and have lived to share their regrets, or were able to endure the restlessness and offer profound wisdom. Be real with someone now and ask for their help, wisdom, and perspective for whatever is coming your way. If you have a wise, mature person in your life whom you can go to when the winds of restlessness begin to blow, you’ll already be a few steps ahead of any possible mistakes or loneliness. And if you’re already in the whirlwind, call upon someone you know and respect for their help and guidance. They will be honored that you did.

If you need counseling more than mentoring, make the investment to address those childhood wounds and the issues in your life that prevented the first half of it from going well. You can always save the best for last, and many times that happens when you seek help and wisdom from someone else. Proverbs 13:10 tells us “wisdom is with those who receive counsel” (NASB).

4. Work through a healthy “bucket list.”

If you’ve never written out a “bucket list” – the things you’d like to accomplish or experience before you “kick the bucket” or leave this earth – this would be a good time to do that. Midlife bothers us when we feel we haven’t lived our dream, accomplished much, or taken healthy risks. Consider asking your spouse or a friend or colleague to help you compile your list and then share the activities, experiences, or milestones with you. Focus on making your list challenging (like a trip overseas, or a visit to the Grand Canyon, or writing your memoir), so you have something to work toward financially, emotionally, and time-wise. You might also consider adding to that list certain projects or events you’ve talked about for years but never did (the kitchen remodel, a camping trip with the kids, or donating regularly to a certain charitable organization).

Keep in mind the items on your bucket list that have eternal value will bring rewards after your time on this earth, as well. Matthew 6:19-20 tells us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (NASB 1995).

Author Jay Payleitner has a charming book called, What if God Wrote Your Bucket List? Some of his ideas will give you a whole new perspective on the kind of “bucket list” that will not only bring you joy, but will delight God’s heart as well.

Psalm 37:4 tells us “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (NIV). And in Matthew 6:33, Jesus said, “But seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” That sounds to me like daily seeking Christ above all things is the key to living out your God-honoring bucket list. Go ahead. Give it a try.

5. Try some fruitful ‘firsts.’

Don’t let your midlife years be the first time you smoked pot, had an affair, visited a strip bar, or streaked in public, for crying out loud. How about making it the first time (or the one hundredth) you do something super productive that will count beyond just this lifetime?

I know so many women who rush out to get their first tattoo during midlife or upon retirement. But, how about rushing out to make a mark on someone else through service, financial investment, or just showing love in a way you never had before? How about making midlife the first time you personally shared Christ with someone, served in a homeless shelter, or regularly supported a missionary or a child in need through a Christian organization like Compassion International.

Keeping busy, again when it benefits someone other than yourself, is far better than having idle hands ready for a new way to become destructive.

6. Develop a hunger for heaven.

The day I turned 50 I started fearing death for the very first time. I didn’t have a terminal diagnosis. In fact, I was in perfect health. I wasn’t afraid of my eternal destiny, because I was assured of my salvation in Christ Jesus. I had just realized that I had more years behind me than in front of me and I’d become so comfortable with life on earth that I feared leaving it. Sadly, I had lost (or never really gained) my longing for heaven.

A midlife crisis can make us feel we must do something wild, risky, or utterly crazy while we still have time. But if we become aware of what heaven is like, which will cause us to long for it, we will be more focused on our heavenly home than our earthly one. Colossians 3:1-2 tells followers of Christ to “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” When you and I realize our lives are hidden (protected and secured) with Christ in God, we should want nothing more than to invest in our eternal home.

You can develop a hunger for heaven by reading all the Bible has to say about it, and gleaning spiritual insights from the scriptural studies on heaven that authors and pastors have done. Read Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven, and Robert Jeffress’s A Place Called Heaven. I suggest you not wait until you’re a senior to start investing in, and longing for heaven. You might not have that much time.

For more practical and spiritual help through your midlife years, see Cindi’s popular book, Women on the Edge: Turning Desperation into a Desire for God.

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Westend61

Cindi McMenamin headshotCindi McMenamin is a national speaker, Bible teacher, and award-winning writer who helps women and couples strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is also a mother, pastor’s wife, and author of 17 books, including When Women Walk Alone (more than 150,000 copies sold), When God Sees Your TearsWhen a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts, and When Couples Walk Together:31 Days to a Closer Connectionwhich she co-authored with her husband of 35 years. For more on her speaking ministry, coaching services for writers, and books to strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com