Finding Your Way Through Midlife Career Confusion

Has your work lost its appeal? Are you feeling a growing sense of discomfort and discontent with your job? Do you feel empty inside, longing for a sense of meaning in your work?

In midlife, most people reevaluate their careers. Midlife is a time in which spiritual issues become more important. As we approach our 40s and beyond, we realize that our lives on earth are finite. We want to do something with our lives that matters; we want to make a difference; we desire to leave a legacy. Many people begin or renew a quest to find out what God has put them on this earth to do.

Often, however, people grappling with midlife issues feel like they’re in foreign territory without a map. If that describes you, you may find yourself feeling lost, confused, depressed and burned-out. You may feel disoriented while going through familiar routines of your daily life. Perhaps you are asking old questions with a new sense of urgency: “Who am I? What do I want to do with my life? What is important to me? What is God’s will for my life?” You may, however, have no idea how to find answers to those questions.

After working with hundreds of individuals who were wrestling with these kinds of issues, we can assure you that you can find your way through your present uncertainty and confusion. You can come to a point of clarity and decisiveness about what you want to do next in your life. The key is creating a map to guide you: a map that identifies critical components of your God-given design and describes your compelling interests, which are the needs you would like to address in this world (see the article Discovering Your Unique, God-given Design).

Here are some guidelines to help you find your way through the confusion of midlife career issues:

1) Recognize that God calls us not to seek fulfillment in this world, but to find fulfillment by serving others. Ask yourself, “In what ways do I want to serve others through my work?” in addition to “What do I want to receive from my work?”

2) Read Scripture and pray daily. God’s Word reminds us of who we are, whose we are and what is truly important in this life. If you long to be a follower of Christ’s who is “good soil” and yields a 100-fold crop (see the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:1-23), be wary of becoming those who “hear the word,” but let “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth” distract them, resulting in unfruitfulness. It is so easy to get caught up in the problems of our lives and to be seduced by money!

Only God, through His Word and through our relationship with Him, can free us of the entanglements of this world. (Resources like Year of the Bible take only five minutes a day, but can make a significant difference in your ability to stay focused on the Lord and His will in your daily life.)

3) Realize that in God’s “economy,” nothing is wasted. Often, midlife is a time of revisiting regrets, mistakes, “failures,” unrealized dreams and becoming obsessed with “What if ...” and “If only ..." Focusing on these types of thoughts is depressing, and gets in the way of taking positive action. Romans 8:28 tells us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” God can use your past to prepare you for your future. Place your past in His hands and begin to offer Him the “sacrifice of praise,” thanking Him for His faithfulness to you in your life and asking Him to use you, imperfections and all, to do what He has created you to do.

Midlife can be the richest and most satisfying time of your life. Bob Buford, in his book “Game Plan: Winning Strategies for the Second Half of Your Life,” offers these encouraging words:

If you think of your story as an epic – a grand, ambitious journey for a noble cause – you recognize that everything before the intermission was the setup, the necessary series of events to precede the triumphant finale. Everything in the first half – the successes as well as the failures, the good decisions and the lousy ones – prepares you for something better. ... Half time lets you revise the second half of your story so that it turns out better – so that it aligns itself with the story God implanted on your soul. He has created a grand narrative for you to live out and is determined to prevent you from writing a smaller, less significant part than the one he has already written.

You can find your way through midlife career confusion. Consider seeking professional assistance, if needed. Seeking assistance at key points in our lives is a sign of strength, not weakness. Skilled professionals can help you through difficult places so that you can experience the life God intends for you to have.

A professional career counselor can expedite your process of finding career direction. Our approach to career counseling is to walk step-by-step with you through the process of determining your God-given design, discovering what is important to you, and identifying the career path you want to pursue. (You can find out more about our career counseling services here. You have the option of signing up for a free initial consultation to discuss which services would best meet your needs.) We consider it a privilege to help individuals determine how they can best invest their gifts and abilities and accomplish the things God has placed them upon this earth to do.

You are God’s handiwork. You have an inherent design that comes directly from His hand. Your past, present and future are known to Him. He loves you, and desires to work through you to accomplish His purposes. Begin taking action today to find out what God has created you to do!

Kevin & Kay Marie Brennfleck, National Certified Career Counselors, are the directors of the Christian Career Center and Church Jobs Online.