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Mid-Life: Cause for Crisis or Contentment?

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Finding God Through Meditation (Week 5 of 7)

Consider…the continual motion of our life, never resting night nor day, but going forward without ceasing and every day more and more wastes itself; so that it may not unfitly be compared to a candle, which, by little and little, consumes itself, and when it gives the clearest light, the sooner it approaches unto its end; also a flower, which springs up in the morning, at noon fades and at night wholly withers away. – Finding God Through Meditation, p. 68

Mid-Life: Cause for Crisis or Contentment?

CAUTION: Reading the above anywhere on or around your 45th birthday can cause cold sweats, shortness of breath, even hyperventilation, heart palpitations, dry mouth and numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.

Just what I needed.

Today is my 45th birthday.

By now, I don’t have to read the saints to recognize the continuity (even monotony?) of life. Sometimes I feel the end barreling toward me, faster than I can gain traction. Ruled by the routines of daily life, I find myself riding the slow motion train of our family schedule as I watch the years streak by through the passenger window.

In The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, Screwtape — a senior devil intent upon winning every soul for his “father” in hell — describes my ailment perfectly:

The long, dull, monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather. You see, it is so hard for these creatures to persevere. The routine of adversity, the gradual decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes, the quiet despair (hardly felt as pain) of ever overcoming the chronic temptations with which we have again and again defeated them, the drabness which we create in their lives and the inarticulate resentment with which we teach them to respond to it — all this provide admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition.

Apparently, Satan is wearing out my soul.

Do you sometimes feel that way? That life just keeps going and you just keep trudging along, without success in some areas and without satisfaction in others? Perhaps Satan is wearing out your soul too.

Well, let's refuse to go down without a fight. They say the first step toward change is acknowledging the problem. Problem acknowledged. And let's go one step further. I’m willing to wager that I even know why I suffer from the decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes. At the base of my problem lies a propensity toward a certain sin. Perhaps you'll be able to identify.

For years I’ve been attached to a sin that C.S. Lewis describes elsewhere in The Screwtape Letters:

“…nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him…he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen.”

The sin is pride. Of course. And I don't know about you, but in my life pride manifests itself in trying to control time – something that really isn't even mine to control. Rather, it is a tool to be used for God's purposes.

Do you begin your day with every minute organized and accounted for, with not a moment to spare on the “nonessentials?” What are the nonessentials? Nonessentials tend to include anything that is not on the list. Sadly, in my home nonessentials have included a child coming to me with a problem while I'm in the middle of a chore. Or someone who needs a hug while I am sitting at the computer. Perhaps yours include a husband who would like to spend time with you or a wife who deserves five minutes of affection?

But that's only part of the problem. Often our obsession with time is not limited to the day to day demands of life. It can become the basis for our entire framework toward life in general. Do these phrases sound familiar to you?  …When the kids get older…when the kids grow up…when the bills are all paid…when….when…when…?”

We spend an inordinate amount of time living for another time.

Perhaps the basis for a midlife crisis is that realization that when may never come? That life consists of many miseries, including suffering and death – something that by middle age has become more than apparent as we witness friends and loved ones around us?

In our twenties, death wasn't even a thought. But in our forties and beyond, we can see it sitting right there on the horizon. It may be blurry, and we may not think about it daily, but it's there. And we know there's no stopping our forward progression in that direction.

But as Christians we also know that life is not about squeezing everything we can into the time we have before death knocks at our door. Life is not about NOW. Now is a tool that God has placed at our disposal to help us get to heaven. The term Now or Never has become a slogan for generations of souls who have forgotten this truth and therefore have gone on to lose their way.

We will not follow those souls. We can even look at that horizon and see a finish line – for us death is not the end, but rather a new birth into our eternal life.

Today we are going to create a game plan for the rest of our earthly lives by reiterating some basic truths. Let's begin here:

Now is not about me. It’s not about my goals, my dreams or even my sufferings. Life is not about now.

Now is but a speck on all eternity.

Life is about forever. Life is about heaven.

Yes, death may be hovering in the foreseeable future but we have this moment; and in this moment we can alleviate any fear of that day by getting back to the basics.

What are the basics?

The basics can be found in any First Communion Catechism. Let's review the first few questions:

  1. Who made you? God made me.
  2. Did God make all things? Yes, God made all things.
  3. Why did God make you? God made me to show forth his goodness and to make me happy with Him in heaven.
  4. What must you do to be happy with God in heaven?

And here it is – the answer that trumps our silly obsession with time. The answer that brings us back to square one. The answer around which every moment of every day should revolve.

To be happy with God in heaven I must know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world.

That's it. Life is really very simple. Keeping these simple things in mind can create joy and help to avoid any wearing out of the soul. All we have to do is keep our eye on the ball.

So today, on my 45th birthday, I am making a pact with God.

If He promises to lift me up when I fall, I pledge to do the following:

I will not give into a self-centered, desperation-driven secular-invented mid-life crisis.


  1. I will recognize life as a gift.
    My life is not my own. My life is a generous gift, that, if managed rightly, will allow me to share in God's goodness and to be happy with Him forever.
  2. I will recognize how God is asking me to serve Him through my vocation.
    I will love my husband. Not grudgingly. Not with resentment. Today, I will write him a note, make his favorite dinner, ask his opinion and make our time together a priority. Further, I will love my children. Not in a rush. Not with an ulterior motive. Today, I will listen to my 16-year-old and play Barbies with my 4-year-old. I will spend time being, not merely cleaning. I will become a mother again and not merely director, time management consultant and maid.
  3. Most importantly, I will be grateful.
    There was a time when we were struggling financially. My mother’s words of wisdom? “When you go into the nursing home, you only get one suitcase.” In other words, don't sweat the small stuff. Things don't matter.  She must have read St. Peter of Alcántara:

The Last of these miseries is death, both in respect of soul or body, a thing most terrible, for in this moment the body is disrobed of all things in this world.

From this moment on, I vow to be thankful for every gift I’ve been given, from the very gift of life, to the gift of my vocation, my family and home in which the Lord chooses to bless us at this moment. I will be thankful even for the trials and tribulations that life brings, especially those which drive me to my knees. Rather than using trials to turn from Him in despair, I will thank Him for each and every one, using them as an opportunity – not to run away – but to draw always nearer to my true Home.

Are you with me?  If this pledge doesn't apply to you, create your own. But whatever you do, please don't allow Satan to wear out your soul. Just remember, a pledge is not about feelings. It is about decisions. It is about taking action. Actions that will bring the kind of joy we long for, because we'll be doing those very things for which we were created.

Reading Assignment:

Chapters 8

Discussion Questions:

1. How did the readings this week cause you to reexamine your own life?

2. Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at

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  • LizEst

    Happy Birthday, Vicki! May the Lord always bless you abundantly!

    • Vicki

      Thanks, Liz! May He bless you as well!

  • Levine Kalikuela

    Thank you for your sharing. I have been so much touched with your sharing. That I should not allow Satan to wear out my soul. This is so wonderful a lesson to me. I realized how satan got hold of me, through anger,discouragement etc. The thing I missed out is to be grateful to God for many wonderful things granted to me as well as those negatives. I appreciate you can Vicki, you are growing graceful. Happy Birthday to you!

    • Vicki

      Levine, God is good, isn’t He?! May he bless you always!

  • Jeanette

    ?..W I S H I N G ? Y O U ? B I R T H D A Y ? B L E S S I N G S ?¸ VICKI!

    • Vicki

      Thanks, Jeanette! Love the artistry:)!

  • Liz G

    Happy Birthday!

    • Vicki

      Thank you, Liz!! God bless!

  • Judy Silhan

    First, Happy Birthday, Vicki. Though, we do not know the hour when we will be called to account for the choices we have made during our years on earth, I do feel, at my age, 67, that I probably have less time than you to make changes in my spiritual life that are along the lines presented by St. Peter. One of the things St. Peter speaks of, “…that anxiety wherewith the mind of the dying is tormented, when abstracted from all corporal business, he only thinks what shall become of his body and what shall become of his soul…,” lends me to think about not only my life as I am dying, but also those souls who do not have any kind of a relationship with our Lord, whatsoever, and what kind of torment they may experience in their final hours. For this, I am reminded of St. Faustina and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, which is to be prayed at the bedside of a dying person. You mentioned making a promise. With these thoughts in mind, I am making a promise to pray more often and more fervently, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, for all those souls who do not know Christ and His love for them.

    • Vicki

      Judy, That’s a Beautiful idea! Thank you for sharing your pledge! I will share your intention whenever I pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet! God bless you!

  • Dan Burke

    Happy Birthday – We are all grateful for you here at the Avila Foundation!

    • Vicki

      Thank you, Dan – I am grateful to be here!

  • Happy Birthday! God Bless! 🙂

    • Vicki

      Thank you so much, Maria! May God bless you as well!

  • Lori

    Happy belated birthday Vicki! 45 is still young! God bless you and your family. The feelings of despair or sadness are described by St. Ignatius as desolation. It is during this time that we need to do the opposite of what the bad spirit wants us to do. This is where we follow the Ignatian rules:
    Rule 5: Never make a change … Continue praying and lifting yourself up to God.
    Rule 6: Do the opposite of what the bad spirit wants us to do. Don’t feel like praying?… Pray double.

    Your pledge is a great example of perserverance and consistent with St Ignatius teachings. 🙂

  • Annie

    Be thankful that you are at a time in your young life when you realize that your life does not belong to you, but to God.

  • Elizabeth

    A belated Happy Birthday, Vicki! You are a gifted writer. Your posts always give me much food for thought. Al-Anon(a spiritual program and support group for families and friends of alcoholics) has been an important part of my spiritual life for over 30 years. Your “pledge” reminds me of the nine affirmations in Al-Anon’s “Just For Today” and the importance of living one day at a time. Following the affirmations is the Prayer of St. Francis…a fitting summary of our daily mission. Another hallmark of the Al-Anon program is “an attitude of gratitude.” Several years ago, on the suggestion of my spiritual director, I started a Gratitude Journal, whereby I write 5 things for which I am grateful every day. I continue this practice today. It has made me more mindful, more centered and more grateful.

    • Michelle

      I love Just For Today. When I read this, my thoughts went straight to yesterday’s One Day At A Time: “He who frees himself of hampering regrets for the past and worry about what lies ahead finds himself able to deal with the present.” It was a good reminder and a source of comfort. I also find that keeping a journal of gratitude helps tremendously and I can always tell when I let it slip. God Bless Elizabeth.

  • Michelle

    Perhaps I’m going off here but what about the transition to menopause? ~ at least for me. It makes all of the points you have made well intensify. At 48, I’m sure I am changing and with both young and older children, it presents many difficulties. I don’t hear much about it in the catholic realm.

    Headaches, crying easily, sleeping issues, hot flashes, feeling old while around other mothers with young children, being mistaken for your own children’s grandmother, loss of blessed fertility, drooping skin and loss of feminine feelings.

    Now, back to gratitude. I’ll have to meditate on that today.

    But for now, sanctification, wisdom, death perception, experience, tempering of vanity, the end of nursing any day now, (both good and bad) and awe for God’s amazing creation.

    God bless Vicky and Happy Belated Birthday. Your words are always worth going out of my way to read.

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