Lost in the Middle: Midlife and the Grace of God
by Paul David Tripp
Reviewed by Gary Takahashi
I just finished reading this book and would like to recommend it, especially to those of you in our church who are either approaching (early 30’s) or are already in midlife (mid 30’s to 40). I’m sure many of you are aware of the challenges that midlife presents for everyone, let alone the true believer in Christ. What is midlife? Here’s an excerpt from the book:
These two points — that our lives never work according to our plans and that we are always trying to figure out our lives — effectively define and explain the “crisis” of midlife. The disorientation of midlife is the result of the collision of a powerful personal awareness and a powerful personal interpretation. Now, that should not surprise us, because we do not live by the facts of our experiences, but by the ways that our interpretations have shaped those facts for us. The difficult disorientation of midlife is not because the passage itself is disorienting. Whatever trouble midlife brings to us is essentially caused by the wrong thinking we bring to it. Suddenly we see things about ourselves that have been developing for years but went by unnoticed. We don’t respond to our new awareness based on the facts of our age or place in life but based on the meanings we attach to them. These meanings will form and determine how we respond to midlife (pp. 33-34).
What this book effectively points out is that for many Christians, midlife exposes the idols of our heart. When we recognize that dreams or goals that we valued so highly are probably not going to be realized, we begin to feel discontent or dissatisfied with our lives. It is often at this point in our lives that God is showing us that we were really living for our idols and not for Him. As we learn throughout the book, God uses midlife to expose sin and break us of these idols. Another excerpt:
What is midlife about? Yes, it is about painful regrets, crushing disappointment, and physical aging. It is about decisions, words, and actions you would like to take back. Furthermore, it is about dreams that seemed so good but that now seem like they will never come to be. It is about the loss of youth and the dread of old age. It is about these things, but it is about so much more. Midlife is about the glorious riches of God’s grace that call me in my lostness to find something better. It is about learning in my weakness to find the inner strength that is mine because the Spirit of power lives inside of me. Midlife is not a time for weakening faith but a time of trial that is designed to leave my faith in Christ stronger than it has ever been. It is a time when I really begin to understand that no other glory (relationships, career, health and physical beauty, or material ease) can compete with the glory of being loved by Christ. Midlife is more than a time assessment, it is a time of refinement, where the character of God’s fullness dwells more and more in me. It is a time when I learn to celebrate the redemptive realities outside of me. The God who is able to do more than I could conceive or imagine in my most brilliant and creative moment actually lives inside of me in power and glory (p. 347)!
Paul David Tripp is a biblical counselor, associates of both Edward Welch and David Powlison. He has many years of counseling experience and shares many of the real life cases of those going through midlife crisis. As you read through these cases, you will almost assuredly find yourself in some of the examples. Make time to read this book and pray that God will use it to expose the idols of your heart and prevent you from becoming another midlife casualty.