Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Twists and Turns of Life

According to Paul Tripp, one thing that is true for every middle-aged person is our lives have not worked according to our plan. He writes, "Our lives have taken twists and turns that we could have never imagined. Some of those turns have left us amazed and thankful while others caused profound pain and loss. In all our planning and our careful decision making, we are still caught up short, surprised by the details of our own existence."1

When I read this, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry because life has not turn out the way I planned. As providence would have it,  most of the unexpected and devastating game-changers occurred after I turned 40. Not a very warm welcome to midlife.

Of course, there is always the temptation to avoid facing the unfulfilled expectations and shattered dreams. Isn't that what lies at the heart of a midlife crisis? The world is more than happy to distract us with its endless store of diversions, but the Harley or the face lift or both can't fill the deepest need in our souls. Only God can help us make sense of what has happened to our lives.

So here are a couple lessons that I have learned along the way…

Turn the vessel upside down - Christianity is not a religion of the stiff upper lip. Just read the Psalms.
I am weary with my moaning; every night, I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye wastes because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.  Psalm 6:6-7
Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased?Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?  Psalm 77: 8-9
Not a peppy and uplifting modern worship chorus. But these raw words are in the hymnbook of the Old Testament. God has given us these laments to help us pour our hearts out to Him and grieve for the losses we've experienced. As Charles Spurgeon says, "Turn the vessel upside down; it is a good thing to empty it, for this grief may ferment into something more sour. Turn the vessel upside down, and let every drop run out; but let it be before the Lord."2

Believe God and rest in the gospel - During one of the darkest times of my life, I was tempted to let it go, like the song, and ditch Christianity, especially if my circumstances were the reward for being a believer. But God did not let go of me. In addition to the Psalms, the Holy Spirit drew me to Isaiah 53, the prophetic account of the suffering Messiah.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53: 4-6
To borrow from my pastor's most recent sermon3, if God delivered me from the deepest darkness of my sin and poured out His wrath on Christ as my substitute, I can trust Him with the temporal darkness. He has not abandoned me because He turned His face away from his Son on the cross. Without a doubt, these verses kept me when despair threatened to pull me under. No warm fuzzies or happy emotions, just the truth of the gospel.


We've arrived at midlife by very different paths through very different trials. We don't know what twists and turns await us in the future. But whether there is joy or sorrow, we know that God has not forgotten to be gracious. Calvary is the evidence of that. May this be our anchor past, present, and future.

1. Lost in the Middle: Midlife and the Grace of God, Paul David Tripp, Shepherd Press, 2004, pg. 31.
2. Job's Resignation, Sermon 2457 by Charles Haddon Spurgeon (emphasis mine)
3. I highly commend this sermon, A God-Centered Believer With Depression, by Pastor Ryan Davidson given June 15, 2014. Even though it deals with depression, it applies to the struggles and disappointments we face in midlife.

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