Featured in the February, 2009 Issue of the Ashburn Baptist News
We are concerned about the young and we care for the old, but the middle-ager has to watch out for himself.
There are programs for the teenager and numerous benefits for the golden-ager, but the middle-ager looks in vain for help to bear the burdens of life. The government provides education for the young and social security for the old, and asks the middle-ager to pick up the tab for both.
Is the print smaller, are the steps steeper, then you are there. You became middle-age the day your oldest boy could outrun you. If you have noticed that the company is hiring young boys for responsible posts, then you are middle-age.
Your friends are dropping from coronaries and suffering from ulcers. You are balding, bifocaled, and beginning to bulge. You are there! You are not too old to sin, but too old to enjoy it. The middle-ager is the forgotten, unappreciated person.
Between the care freeness of youth and leisure of old age comes the drudgery of middle-age. The fading buoyancy of youth has been destroyed by the burdens of mid-life. The marriage once sweet is now stale. Children who were once cute are now cantankerous. At one moment you must listen patiently to the foolish talk of a near grown child and the next moment be attentive to the senile ramblings of an aging parent.
There are days when you feel tired enough to quit and retire, but you can’t. There is still college tuition for your youngest son, a wedding for your last daughter, and nursing home payments for elderly parents. You are an indispensable member of society for who else would pay the bills?
You never knew there could be so many troubles and you seem to be involved in them all. You enjoy your family and yet you never knew there could be so many difficulties. In the Scripture we read of Jacob who experienced the problems of mid-life. When he was younger his uncle Laban welcomed him, but now he notices “that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been” (Genesis 31:2). You are told to spend more time with your nearly grown children and yet they are seldom around the house. You feel guilty about not giving more time to your aging parents, and yet they want to maintain their independence and not lean upon you.
Youth is the time for dreams, old age the time for memories, but the middle-ager grapples with reality. Now it suddenly dawns on you that you will never be the president of a sizeable company. Being in mid-life and still struggling to meet your financial obligations it dawns on you that you may never be truly wealthy.
You are sure you have given your very best at work, but real success has eluded you. Even as Jacob said, “you know that with all my power I have served your father (who was his boss)” (Genesis 31:7). But his father-in-law did nothing but deceive him and change his wages. And it may be that you have not received the promotions you deserved.
But maybe the biggest problem is not financial or marital, or with rebellious children, or aging parents, or your employment, but the big problem is spiritual.
Years ago you made promises to God but you have forgotten them. Under the press of duty and the burden of life you have not been reading the Scriptures. Working extra hours to support your family and trying to care for all your responsibilities you’ve slipped away from attending public worship with regularity. Prayer instead of being real fellowship with God has degenerated to formal empty words. Your big problem is your spiritual bankruptcy!
Jacob came to realize the same thing. In mid-life God said to him, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God” (Genesis 35:1). Bethel was the place of Jacob’s great spiritual experience when he was yet a youth (Genesis 28). It was at Bethel that he spent his first night away from home and there during his dream he saw the Lord and the ladder reaching to heaven, and the angels, and heard the voice of God in his soul, until he said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:17). He had a great spiritual experience and made a great commitment in his vow saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth” (Genesis 28:20-22).
But Jacob did not keep his commitment and drifted far from the Lord. And now breaking under the burdens of mid-life he realizes he must go back to Bethel. That is, go back to the Lord and renew his vow and live in the will of God. This was the solution to Jacob’s problem and it is the solution to yours!