By Traci Vandermark
My rude awakening occurred in an aisle packed with busy shoppers. I was searching for vitamins, carefully reading the labels, when I passed over a jar that stated, “For Over 50.” Suddenly it hit me. That was me! Having just turned 50, I was not used to thinking of myself in that age group.
Hitting the middle age stage of life is like that. What once seemed so far away has suddenly crept up on you and you find yourself in unknown territory.
Whether you like it or not, you’re there. Middle age does not just bring with it a new shade of hair color or brand of vitamins. Many believers find themselves alone for the first time in their midlife years, whether from an unfortunate divorce or the death of a spouse.
Often the first response when finding yourself single and alone is to fill the void with another person; but unless the relationship is ordained by the Lord, it will only lead to frustration and heartache.
So you wake up one morning and find yourself staring at the ceiling. You’ve made it through this crazy thing called life and have gotten to this point. You are stronger than you thought you were. Yet you feel a second stage approaching and you ask, “What’s next, Lord?”
Seek God’s Presence
When seeking direction from God, the first thing to do is hit your knees. Go directly to your source for insight. No successful undertaking in the Bible was done without seeking God’s presence and input.
God has promised to lead those who seek him. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:8, NIV, 1984). Never make a major life decision without seeking God’s presence first. You don’t need to beg for direction; he will give it to you. Seek God’s presence and discernment follows.
The Israelites needed guidance to get through the wilderness. God led them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. There may be times in your life you wish following God were that simple. That he would make the way before you obvious. Yet you have something the Israelites did not have. You have the Spirit of the living God dwelling within you to guide you. You simply need to seek him.
Praise and worship go hand in hand with prayer. You don’t need to be at Sunday morning service to praise the Lord. Sitting alone with your morning cup of coffee, waiting in traffic, and walking in the evening are all valid times for praise and worship.
“But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22:3, American Standard Version). The Hebrew word for “inhabitest” is yashab, which means to sit or dwell. God dwells in the midst of praise. And when we offer up praise to him, we draw closer to that presence. We become more in tune with his Spirit. When we are in tune with him, we will hear his directions clearly. Bask in his presence daily. Sing to him and bless him while you are in your car or taking a walk on your lunch break. He will meet you there.
Seek Wise Counsel
As you spend time seeking the Lord in prayer and praise, remember you are not in this walk alone. Your brothers and sisters in Christ are on this path with you. Whether you have a clear sense of direction or you simply want to run ideas about the future by someone else, seek wise counsel.
Proverbs 19:20 states, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise” (NIV, 1984). If you feel you are being led in a particular direction, wise counsel may confirm it. At the same time, wise counsel may step in and say, “I think you’re missing something.”
When seeking counsel, consult people who are strong in the Lord and have a committed walk of their own. This doesn’t mean they’ve never made mistakes, but they have learned from the stumbles on their own path and have been made spiritually wiser from them. It may be your minister, a church counselor, or even a longtime friend.
Don’t seek out people who only agree with you. Instead, seek out those who will pray alongside you for guidance from the Lord and let you know when they think you are—or are not—on the right track.
Seek God’s Word
You can’t discern God’s will or understand wise counsel if you don’t spend time in God’s Word. It is the primary tool by which you renew your mind. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
As you study God’s Word and apply it to your life, your thoughts will line up with God’s thoughts. God’s way of doing things will become your way of doing things.
When your mind and way of thinking become aligned with God’s, his will becomes clearer. You will be able to discern between wise counsel and poor advice.
Take a Personal Inventory
You have sought God’s presence, hit your knees in prayer, sat under wise counsel, and validated that counsel with his Word. Now it’s time to take a personal inventory of what is needed to carry out his will. Has he called you to a mission field? Does he want you to enter the ministry? Does he want you to remain where you are to be a light to those that live on your block? Does he want you to marry? Remain single?
Once you have a direction, you need to examine your life to see what actions you need to take to begin moving toward it. You may hear well-meaning believers say, “If God called you to it, he’ll get you through it,” or “If it’s his will, he will make it work.”
While these expressions have merit, God also calls us to count the cost of being a true disciple, giving our all to follow him. Jesus reminds us that though we say we want to follow him, making the decision to go where he leads is not something to be taken lightly.
Jesus said in Luke 14:28 (New American Standard Bible), “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?” He reminds us that we may give more attention to what it takes to remodel our home than what it takes to move us out of our comfort zone and follow his will.
After you count the cost, commit your way to him. The Psalms and Proverbs reassure us that if we entrust our path to God, he will guide us and lead us along it. “Commit your way to the Lord; Trust in Him and He will do this” (Psalm 37:5).
God’s grace and mercy will lead you into the next chapter of your life. No matter how rough the path that brought you to where you are right now, he will graciously guide you into your future if you trust him and seek his counsel.
“How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:19-21, NIV, 1984).
Traci Vandermark is a freelance writer in Walton, New York.
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Beyond Halftime: Practical Wisdom for Your Second Half
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Finishing Well: The Adventure of Life Beyond Halftime
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The Afternoon of Life: Finding Purpose and Joy in Midlife
by Elyse Fitzpatrick
(P & R Publishing, 2004)
The Second Half of Marriage
by David Arp and Claudia Arp
I’m Too Young to Be This Old
by Poppy Smith
Lost In The Middle: Midlife and The Grace of God
by Paul David Tripp
(Shepherd Press, 2004)
Midlife Manual for Men: Finding Significance in the Second Half
by Stephen Arterburn and John Shore
(Bethany House, 2008)
“A Christian Woman’s Midlife Crisis” by Michelle Van Loon
“A Christian Mid-Life Crisis?” by Charity Singleton