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Your Psychological Makeup
Your ego and self-image are components of your psychological makeup, which plays a large part in the decisions you make. Usually, if you have a weak psychological makeup, you'll also have a low self-esteem, which means you're more likely to make destructive decisions about the choices you're faced with.

You also tend to take things personally. You either blame yourself for everything or you blame everyone else and never take responsibility for anything.

Now if you never deal with why you have such a negative perception of yourself in the first place, you'll keep falling back into the same pattern of negative thoughts and behavior. You won't believe anything good that anyone has to say about you. Someone could give you a compliment and you'd think he was lying or kidding. But if that same person told you something negative, you'd believe it and say, "Yes, I know. I'll try to be better." It doesn't make any sense, but that's what a bad self-image will do.

You also are highly impressionable and may value other people's views and opinions above your own. For example, you may meet a person who says he's an expert on the job market, and he tells you a bunch of negative things about the occupation you're in. You may come away from that conversation and adopt that person's views.

If you take it to the extreme, you may make a decision to change careers because of the impressions you came away with that day. Then years later, it catches up with you when you realize that you're in a job that you don't even like. Well, now you have a major problem - especially if you're in your latter years.

Social Influences
Social influences are very strong forces that contribute to Mid-life Crisis (M.L.C.), because you're not only dealing with your own personal struggles but the world's social values as well—and the world is basically saying that life isn't meaningful after 40 of age. (If you notice, that's the general age range of M.L.C.)

The messages you receive all say, "You're no good anymore. It's over. It's all downhill from here." And they're coming from every segment of society. Television advertisers promote the image that youth is good and aging is bad. Hollywood basically says, "If you're young, we want to use you. If you're old, go somewhere and die."

Some veteran actors get older and the producers put more wrinkles on them. They get treated like a bouquet of old flowers: Why keep them around? They're no good anymore. They look like they're about to fall apart anyway, so just throw them in the garbage.
That's what we do with our elderly folks. Society looks at them and says they're no good; they're no longer useful; they don't count. So we put them away somewhere to die. We don't want to listen to them anymore. And Satan steals from us a precious resource, because they have some wisdom that we need.

Now these are just a few of the social influences that you have to guard against, because society will make you feel rejected and have you reevaluating your relationships with your wife, children, colleagues, friends, and even God - and you should never let anything or anyone make you question your relationship with Him.

It's a 'Woman' Thing
Before we look at strategies for preventing and dealing with M.L.C., I want to focus for a moment on the woman. As women, we face some specific pressures that produce stress and can trigger a crisis in mid life.

Cultural Views of Women
Adversities affecting every aspect of our lives are going to come, especially during M.L.C. So we need to learn to appreciate what we have now instead of looking back and longing for something we once had. You can't turn back the clock or change the past, but you can make quality decisions that will help keep you stable and productive throughout your latter years.

One of the first decisions you need to make is to stop listening to what society tells you. Why is it that when you're young, you don't care what society says. But as you get older, you begin looking at what society is saying about you?

You'll see all those young actresses on television and get mad, thinking, What do they have that I don't have? Youth! But you have (or should have) something they don't have - the wisdom that comes with age.

Aging is a process that God set in motion. Personally, I'm not ashamed of my age. In fact, I don't understand why Christian women don't want to tell their age or feel they have to lie about it, because God has promised us long life.

When I tell people my age, I'm saying: "This is how long I have lived so far, and this is how much longer I have to go." That's what age means to me. Every time I tell my age, it reminds me that God has been faithful.

There's no need to lie about your age. You should tell it proudly because it's a witness.

Marital Issues
Marriage is another major cause of undue stress for women. For some, it's the lack of marriage that is causing the stress. If your knight in shining armor hasn't shown up yet, then use your time constructively to examine yourself. Don't worry about trying to examine others. Just make sure that you're where God wants you to be.

Now some women are dealing with being unhappily married. There is no point in worrying or getting stressed out because you're dissatisfied and your marriage is in trouble. You need to redirect your focus. Try putting the same amount of energy that you spend on dealing with the stress into correcting the situation. Start looking in the Word of God for the solution instead of worrying about where you missed it!

Sometimes we get lazy and we don't want to do these things. We think, I'm a woman, so I should know what to do. But we really don't know. That's Hollywood talking. Only God knows what to do. He knows our mates better than they know themselves. God can tell us exactly what to do to fix any situation and when to do it. And He will share it with us if we go to Him!

If you're facing divorce, your number-one obligation or duty is to make sure that you're doing everything God requires of you so that if the divorce decree is signed, you're at peace, because you know that you've done what God said. Otherwise, you'll wind up beating yourself up over your divorce for the rest of your life.

When a woman who has gone through a divorce comes in for counseling, I encourage her to be up-front with me. I've seen too many women repeat the same mistakes over and over again because they were in denial: It was always "his fault." So I ask them point-blank, "But what did you do?"

Divorced women who want to remarry need to be honest with themselves to see where they made the mistake the first time. That's the only way they're not going to make the same mistake a second time.

Career Priorities and the Biological Clock
Two more stress-makers for women are the pressures of career and our biological clocks that constantly remind us that soon it will be too late to accomplish our lifelong dreams. This is a category where a lot of single women get into trouble.

For years, their number-one commitment was to their profession and advancing their career, so they didn't have time to get married. But now that they've achieved some degree of success, they're ready to settle down.

Or they may want to get married and become a mother because they're getting old. So they rush into a relationship. They sensed the urgency of their inner clock, and it forced them out of God's timing and right into the arms of a disaster.

It's the world that sets limits on what age you can do things. If getting married and having a baby is a desire of your heart, then just believe God and wait on Him. If He could do it for Sarah, He can do it for you. Of course, you probably don't want to have a baby in your 90s, but the point is, God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34).

'Colliding Emotions'
Another experience that is hard to describe has to do with the turbulent struggle that is taking place inside of you. I call it "colliding emotions."

Colliding emotions are a rough, explosive, crisis-type transition, a quiet restlessness, and an inner confusion—all at the same time. In other words, total mass confusion! You say, "How can that happen?" I don't know, but it does.

You may have experienced something like it if you've ever dealt with a little baby while you were mad at your husband. You're playing with the baby, talking baby talk, and then your spouse shows up. All of a sudden, you find yourself arguing and hollering at him and playing with the baby at the same time.

Or maybe you've been in the middle of an argument when the telephone rang, and you picked up the phone and said hello, sounding like the happiest person in the world. Then you hung up the phone and started arguing again. Well, those are examples of colliding emotions.

Now take that and multiply it by 100, and you'll get an idea of the conflict you're dealing with when you go through M.L.C. It is a hundredfold, all-out war on your emotions!

Loss
Another factor is the accumulation of traumatic losses. You'll find that as you get older, there will be more and more losses that you have to deal with, such as the death of extended family members or friends (especially those your age).

Often when this happens, you begin to reassess your life and wonder, Oh, no. Am I next?

Another dimension of loss aside from death is the loss of someone or something familiar. It may be that the children are grown and have left the house or that you're facing retirement or were laid off from your job. Any type of loss can create a vacuum in your life, which can bring about M.L.C.

Children
Women who have kids are also subject to the added pressures that come from their children's growing demands and eventual independence. This is something that I believe contributed to my going through M.L.C. when I was in my 30s.

My children were still in the home, but they were very independent. I had already taught them how to do laundry, wash, cook, and whatever else they needed done besides iron. (I don't buy clothes that you have to iron.) So they really didn't need me to do anything for them.

Basically, all I was doing was making sure they did their chores—and even then, all I had to do was say, "I'm telling your daddy," and that was it. It was taken care of. So all they really needed was someone to drive them around to different places. And that didn't even need to be me, because I could have just as easily called them a taxi! So I really felt useless.

I was beginning to experience a mid-life crisis, and I went through a time of self-examination. I thought, Well, I've had my children and they're all grown now; they're at an age where they don't need me. Maybe I've done too good a job in bringing them up. Then on top of all that, I had forgotten about the calling of God on my life.

Well, one day I was out shopping with my brother and his wife, and I came across this T-shirt that said, "It's my mid-life—I can crisis if I want to!" I grabbed it immediately. I really bought it out of self-pity at first, because I'd put it on whenever I felt like saying, "Just leave me alone! I'm crisising right now!"

I mean, I was at a point in my life where I felt like screaming at the top of my lungs. I was literally overwhelmed. I just wanted to get in the car, drive off, and never come back. I'd think, Just go and keep on going. I didn't even have a destination in mind. I just thought anywhere would be fine, as long as it wasn't "there."

It seems totally stupid now when I think back on it, but that's honestly how I felt. I just didn't want to be there anymore. It didn't have anything to do with anyone else. It was just me "crisising."

One day, I was looking at that T-shirt, and it was as if I actually read it for the first time. This time when I saw, "It's my mid-life—I can crisis if I want to," I decided that I didn't want to. That's what helped me get over it: I didn't want to!

I got up and went where I should have gone in the first place—to God! I said, "Lord, I know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13). So if I don't want to crisis, I don't have to crisis, because You give me the strength not to."

You see, God's Word was the answer all the time. I was going around frustrated, trying to re-examine all the things that were making me feel the way I did, when all I had to do was get into the Word of God, make the adjustment, and go on to the next phase of my life.

You don't have to stay in one area all your life. That's what the devil and the world tries to make you think. They'll try to put you in a box and say, "You have to do this, and it's the only thing you can do." No, it's not. God is your Creator. He tells you what you can do.

In my case, I knew I had a calling on my life, and that's what He brought me back to. But I also knew that there were priorities I had to keep in order to flow into that calling. My first priority was to my husband: Whatever he needed me to do, I needed to do. At the time, he was traveling and was busy with the church. So he needed me to be home with the children. That was my priority. That was my first calling—to be with my children, to be there for him, and to be there in the home.

Then when my children didn't need me at home anymore, I was free to go help out in the church and do the things my husband needed done there. The busier he became, the more I needed to be at the church.

Now that my children are older, they're getting to the point where they're able to help out in the church. So I'm finally free to travel with my husband. But I would have never gotten to this stage if I hadn't made the right choice at that critical juncture in my life.

I held onto that T-shirt for a long time to remind me of where I was back then and where I am now. It was meditating on what it said that finally got my attention long enough to realize that I could decide what I wanted to do about the crisis. But it was taking my decision to God and doing what the Word said that actually brought me out.

If I ever have to deal with another crisis again, I won't have to go through that because I know what to do. Actually, if I continue to examine myself every day, I won't have to go through another crisis because then I won't allow things to "pile up" on me.

A crisis only happens because people let problems pile up on them. You can't keep putting problems away in neat little corners and say, "I'll take care of them later." If you don't, you'll wake up one day and suddenly discover that all those problems need to be taken care of right then, all at the same time. And then you'll have a crisis for sure!

(You may also find Parts One and Three by searching by Author)

Source: Establishing Godly Relationships Through Marriage & Family
by Deborah L. Butler
Excerpt permission granted by Word of Faith Publishing

Author Biography

Deborah Butler
Web site: Word of Faith International Christian Center
 
Pastor Deborah L. Butler serves in ministry with her husband, Bishop Keith A. Butler at Word of Faith International Christian Center in Southfield, MI. She is a licensed and ordained minister of the Gospel.
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