Crisis an an opportunity for a revival of the life of God.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how our lives change when we hit middle age. I, for one, have hit that point when I’ve realized I cannot have the life I wanted and imagined when I was in my 20s. Midlife is about realizing you have a life different, perhaps more complicated, somehow more flawed–perhaps broken–than the one you imagined. The realization seems sudden, even though it’s been building for years. One day you wake up and realize your life is nothing like what you planned, and we’re also in the middle of a crisis of faith, grieving, wondering how God could allow this, coming to terms with the state of our lives.
Last week I encountered this passage while mulling these things over:
But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:34-36, ESV)
I’m not sure a mid-life crisis is what Jesus was referring to when he talks about drunkenness and dissipation. But it is easy easy for us to let our attention be distracted, even captured by the cares of our lives, leading us to pay little attention to what is truly important. It is especially easy when we are worn and broken by stresses, family problems, workplace politics and the rat race in general to look at our uncomfortable lives and to despair. Jesus says that this condition will come to everyone on earth, so I guess we had it coming!
Jesus gives us the antidote, which is a call to revival: to stay awake and to pray at all times to escape it. Easy, right? If you, like me, need more help than that to turn from a crisis of dissipation and despair to the alert watchfulness and hope of revival, I’ve found a few gems in the Serenity Prayer:
Accept the things we cannot change. I think this is the big life lesson in middle-age. We realize we are not masters of our own destiny. We have limitations, and we must accept them and accept their results in order to continue to reclaim our lives.
Change what you can. It is easy at this point to become a victim to our circumstances and believe things will never change. Jesus is saying that we are predisposed to do this! The truth is, there is much in our lives that can change. Start small, with something that sounds manageable but is still a stretch, but start.
Pray for wisdom and discernment. There will be things we know instinctively we must accept and others that must change. But there will be lots of things in the middle that we don’t know if we should push against them or not. We must pray at this point for discernment and wisdom, that God would show us what needs changing and what needs accepting.
Do all of this standing in Jesus’ presence. It is likely much of the mess in our lives is because of going our own way. In order to collaborate with God as we enter the second half of our lives we must learn to work with him. In the Luke passage Jesus mentions standing before the Son of Man. “Standing” implies a few things: first, we’re not wrestling (striding), nor have we given up and are laying in a puddle (despair). Standing implies dignity, and even equality! If we are able to stand in Jesus’ presence, we have nothing to be ashamed of. We’ve accepted his removal of our sins and can look him in the eye. This is a reviving of life indeed!
Lord, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, the wisdom to understand the difference and to have our lives revived by standing in the presence of Jesus Christ. Amen.