The toys are in the garage, and the kids are gone. Now what? By midlife, we expect to have the answers. Instead, we often have a new set of unsettling questions.

In the film City Slickers, the main character asks his boss, "Have you ever reached a point in your life when you ask, ‘Is this the best I’m ever gonna look? The best I’m ever gonna feel?’ And it ain’t that great." For some men, this stage of life is a critical time when they assess what they’ve accomplished and what the future holds.

Though magazine articles attest to instant results, our overall health does not suddenly improve at our beckoning. It isn’t found in a pill, a thrill or a fling.

At work, midlife men are often bored or feel like outdated relics of the technological revolution. Vocational motivation begins to wane, and the vitality of yesteryear is all but gone.

While most men navigate this season well, others fall apart. But midlife doesn’t have to be a struggle if we know what to beware of.

Be aware of dangers

For many men, the midlife years usher in a feeling that something is missing – and it’s not just the kids. This season of personal evaluation can lead a man into a melancholic fog or depression. Men, who are wired by the Creator as fixers, suddenly find themselves in need of fixing. They look in the mirror and see a receding hairline, feel stiffness in their knees or find a once-trim waistline bulging above their belt. But they notice more than the physical; they notice feelings of emptiness.

Meanwhile, a man’s marriage and sex life can become predictable, even boring. He may flirt with other women, run a marathon, buy a Harley or climb a mountain. Men struggle to come to terms with unmet dreams or nagging limitations.

Middle-aged men have persevered through life’s challenges, been humbled by experience, embarrassed by failure and wounded by rejection. The routine of life is stale. If they haven’t nurtured their relationships, they’ve become emotionally vulnerable. Though tired of the status quo, they lack the fortitude to reignite their passion for life.

Protect yourself from temptation

Many God-fearing men have yielded to the pressures of midlife. King David’s affair with another man’s wife serves as a painful reminder that even a man after God’s own heart is at risk. Men of faith – good men – are not immune to temptation, disappointment or depression.

Fortunately, men can make it successfully through midlife and come out victorious. Here’s how:

  • Stay accountable to other godly men. Men find strength in the presence of other men, especially older ones, who serve as mentors.
  • Stay connected to what matters most – your spouse, children, family, church and friends.
  • Reassess with caution. It is tempting to see your glass (life) as half-empty. It’s good to be introspective, but don’t focus on concerns that you can’t change.
  • Make major decisions slowly. Beware of making drastic changes without thought, prayer and consultation.
  • Reject false ideals. Men often see midlife as their last chance for major change. Remember, the grass is not greener on the other side of a "boring" marriage.
  • Recognize the phase. Inner struggles are a stage of life. Walk through them slowly.
  • Protect your health. As you take care of your emotional life, don’t neglect your spiritual and physical needs.
  • Establish new goals. Try something new. This can include education, hobbies, volunteer work or travel. Men get stuck because we forget that God has created us with a need for adventure.

Develop a healthy viewpoint

At midlife, distorted views of worldly success make us wonder why we don’t measure up to our own expectations. Our degrees, position or possessions are never enough.

Rather, our focus should be on how God has used us to influence others. Perhaps we need to make course corrections, right old wrongs or come to grips with some truth about ourselves.

In His wisdom, God places us in circumstances and seasons of life for varying reasons. The strength of our character determines the meaning of midlife and whether we choose to serve a lost and hurting world. And the world desperately needs the strength of godly men – men who have successfully forged their way through the doldrums of midlife.

Don S. Otis, author of Whisker Rubs: Developing the Masculine Identity, was the president of Veritas Communications, a Christian publicity agency based in Sandpoint, Idaho, at the time of publication.

© 2007 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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