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Change is an inevitable part of life. Without it, we'd become stagnant. But it's how we handle life's changes that determines our success or failure, especially in the time of crisis.

A crisis is a turning point - a point of no return, where a critical decision must be made. Making the right one will open the door for growth and prosperity. But making the wrong one can set you back years or destroy everything you've worked so hard to achieve.

According to the dictionary, a crisis is an emotionally significant event or radical change in a person's life. It's an unstable or crucial time in which a decisive change is impending with the distinct possibility of a highly undesirable outcome.

Mid-Life Crisis
Mid-life crisis (M.L.C.) is a term used to describe the series of traumatic changes and events that come during middle age. It's a time of high risk for marriages and can be a time of depression, anger, frustration, and rebellion.

M.L.C. affects the physical, social, cultural spiritual, and occupational expressions of your life. It may affect just two or three of these areas or all of them at the same time.

If a situation arises that affects just one of these areas, that's not necessarily M.L.C. That's just a change you go through in life. All of us have small crises in our lives. But when several of those areas are affected all at once and you have to make a crucial decision that could change the rest of your life - that's M.L.C.!

A lot of people get to this point and want to rush into a decision. So they'll try something, and if it doesn't work out, they'll try something else. But you have to slow down and think things through. You want to be sure you're making the right decision, because it will definitely have an impact on the rest of your life.

M.L.C. may manifest suddenly and result in a career disruption or an extramarital affair. A man might decide to quit his job and start a new career, or he might be laid off and have to make a decision about what to do with the rest of his life.

If his wife is not doing what she's supposed to be doing at home, he may begin to pursue interests or involvements outside the marriage, because he feels he needs to prove that he's still a man and still desirable. It doesn't mean he's going to leave his wife. It just means he has a need that needs to be filled, and since she isn't fulfilling it, he may find someone who will.

Some men leave their commitments because they're in denial. They're blaming others for the crisis instead of looking at themselves. You see this happening with men who blame their wives for everything and then dump them for younger women.

Sometimes they leave because they've examined their lives, and all they could see was that they'd been "trapped" into a relationship. (Of course, when they were in their twenties, they didn't look at it as being trapped. But now, all of a sudden, they feel they were forced into the relationship.)

You hear stories of people who go through M.L.C. and become a totally different person. They just jump up and leave their families, never to be heard from again. Women do it, too.

I know a woman who left her husband and five kids and started a whole new life. I can't understand a mother leaving her children. I have tried for years, but I can't!

Seriously, I could see her feeling like she has to get away from her husband, but I can't understand her leaving her children. Yet it does happen.

Generally, women handle M.L.C. a little better than men do because they're more emotional beings. They have to change and adjust themselves so often in life that they're used to dealing with things on an emotional level.

Men, on the other hand, are mostly physical beings. They're not used to dealing with emotions, and this is a time of their lives that is very emotional. They just can't handle it.

That's why you'll see different manifestations of extreme behavior in some men. They'll change their job, start dressing like a teenager—do all sorts of radical things to recapture something that they used to have. They'll regress, trying to find their youth. Old men will even marry young women half their age. Now you tell me, what can an 85-year-old man do with a 35-year-old woman—besides die happy!

When Does Mid-Life Crisis Come?
It's difficult to determine exactly when M.L.C. will occur in someone's life, because it's brought on by his experiences. It's not based so much on chronological age as it is the person's state of mind, so it will vary.

I believe my husband and I went through M.L.C. at a very early age because of the things that have happened in our lives. We've had an opportunity to grow and mature in a lot of areas that some people are just now experiencing. Sometimes when we share about what's going on in our ministry, people think that we're older than we really are.

You see, your chronological age may be 40, but your life experience might be equal to someone who is 50 or 55. So it doesn't have to do with chronological age. It has to do with what kind of goals you've chosen in life, your experiences, and how you handle developmental problems.

Some people reach the goals they've set for their life by age 30. Then they're thinking, Where do I go from here? Depending on how they've trained themselves to handle problems, reaching a goal that they thought would take all their life to accomplish could trigger a crisis.

Can you imagine a 30-year-old talking about feeling useless, his life being over, or not knowing what he should do now? You're wondering, What's his problem? And you want to tell him, "Then just set some new goals!"

Now for women, M.L.C. usually happens in their late-30s to early-40s, and it can be brought on by life experiences, such as the empty-nest syndrome. Some women experience M.L.C. the same time as menopause, but most will go through it much earlier than that.

On the average, men will experience M.L.C. during their early-to-mid 40s, which is usually the time when they begin to reexamine themselves. A man will first examine himself at around age 29 or 30 to see whether or not he's set personal goals for himself. But it's not as severe as when he reexamines himself in his 40s.

This time he'll ask himself questions, such as: Am I fulfilled? Have I achieved what I wanted to achieve in life? Am I happy where I am? And so forth.

At 30, most men are just getting their start in life, so it's too early to ask those things. But once a man hits his 40s, he begins to look on the other side and think, My life is half over and what have I achieved?

Doubts and Questions
One reason why M.L.C. is such an emotional time is that your soul or mind is under assault. Your human will is being tested and your thoughts are constantly plagued with doubts and questions.

The four basic areas that people in M.L.C. always tend to question are the purpose of life, their choices in life, their relationships, and their worth as a person.

"Why Do I Exist?"
This is usually the big question, and you'll never come up with a constructive answer apart from the Word of God.

Why am I here? This question usually leads to doubts and questions about a person's choices of environment, neighborhood, church—Do I want to live in this house? Do I want to live in this city? Do I want to go to this church? And so forth—even though nothing may be wrong with those choices.

You might want to change your environment or go somewhere where no one knows you and start over again. The world is telling you, "You need a change." But it's trying to force you to make the wrong changes. And if you take it to the extreme, you might drive off one day and leave the city or even the country.

"Do I Want To Be In This Family?"
A lot of couples decide at this point that they don't want to be married anymore. They don't have a reason — they just don't want to be. People who really love each other have split up that way. They were at the point where they wanted a change, but they were so narrow—minded that the only way they could see a change coming about was to go separate ways.

Some people will go through a time of deep depression and start having what I call "stupid, off-the-wall" thoughts, such as, Why did my parents have me? I should sue them, because I didn't ask to be here.

Now that's crazy! How were they going to ask their parents in the first place!

"Who Am I?"
This is when you start examining yourself, asking: What am I about? Why couldn't I be someone else? The doubts and questions in this category feed on your feelings of insecurity, and you could eventually get to the place where you don't even know who you are anymore.

Recognizing M.L.C.
Now we know that it is possible for Christians to go through any crisis victoriously. But you have to first recognize the problem. There are people who've experienced M.L.C. but never put a name to it because they didn't recognize it for what it was. They just figured they were going through a very hard time in their lives. But there are certain symptoms to look for in order to identify M.L.C. when it comes.

Symptoms of M.L.C.
You can expect to experience outbursts of anger, deep depression and withdrawal, instability, confusion, sulkiness, rebellion, and especially frustration — you become frustrated about everything. Those are just some general symptoms, but there are three major forces that usually bring them on.

Biological Changes
Biological changes include the natural changes that occur as a result of the aging process, such as a shift in body weight and the loss of vigor, muscle tone, skin tone, or hair. Depending on the type of person you are, these things can be very traumatic and become a triggering factor for M.L.C.

The "big three" changes in appearance will be in your hair, skin, and weight. You'll look at your hair one day and realize that it's the wrong color — it's turning gray or white. If your hair is falling out, you may start to wear a toupee or wig.

You'll also notice changes in your skin: it might be getting harder in spots. But for the most part, it will begin to get loose or flabby. (Good-bye tight skin!) Your weight and your body metabolism will also start to change.

Now it doesn't matter what you do, these things are going to happen. There are some natural measures you can take to help so that you don't look as bad. You can slow down the aging process by exercising, eating right, and taking care of your skin. But your body is still going to change, because it's deteriorating as you get older.

It's perfectly natural to want to take care of your appearance. But when you go to the extreme and the way you look becomes the most important thing in your life, you may be facing M.L.C.

(You may find Parts Two 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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