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Lost in the Middle: Midlife and the Grace of God Review by Deborah Burt

Paul David Tripp
Shepherd Press
P.O. Box 24,
Wapwallopen, PA 18660

Have you ever felt lost in the middle of your own story? Have you been crushed by broken dreams? Or maybe you've seen your biggest dreams realized only to be surprisingly disappointed by them? Perhaps you have spent time looking back over your life and feeling regret over past choices and decisions? Have you ever felt abandoned by God? If any of these experiences sound familiar, Tedd Tripp has written a book for you. Lost in the Middle will challenge you, encourage you, and best of all demonstrate to you that God has indeed not deserted you but is rather showering you with grace in and through your trials.

If you are familiar at all with the Tripp family and Shepherd Press (well known for Shepherding Your Child's Heart) you'll recognize themes in Lost in the Middle common to their other publications: a trust in God's Word as true and applicable to our lives, an emphasis on God's sovereignty and His grace, a reminder of human beings' basic tendency to put other things on the throne of our hearts besides God Himself. All of life is a struggle between idolatry and grace. Lost in the Middle teaches us how to shepherd our own grown-up hearts -- away from self and toward Jesus.

Mr. Tripp focuses on the general strivings common to adults and the specific maladies that affect us in midlife. Mr. Tripp covers in depth what it is like to look back on life and experience deep regret. He also takes quite a bit of time to discuss the subject of dreams - shattered dreams and disappointing dreams-come true. He writes an entire chapter about the realities of physical degeneration and why it is so difficult for us to grow older. He shares sorrow with us over the fact that we have to deal with grueling certainties, like death, because we live in a fallen world. Mr. Tripp points out that difficult experiences should provide a window into our hearts, a chance to see into ourselves and take stock. He brings to light that through the graces of physical degeneration, regret, broken dreams, and disappointment God comes near and does a work in our hearts. Mr. Tripp says, "God will take you where you do not want to go in order to produce in you what you could not do on your own."

Lost in the Middle details many aspects of how to deal with crises of reality. One of my favorite ideas in Lost in the Middle is that our theology or way of thinking affects everything in our lives. Mr. Tripp explains that "whatever trouble midlife brings to us is essentially caused by the wrong thinking that we bring to it." He leads us step-by-step through thinking about God in a biblical way and applying those thoughts to our current circumstances. Mr. Tripp also helps us to see the already-here presence of our Redeemer in apparently bleak situations.

Mr. Tripp writes with a delicate balance of sharing real-life stories and straightforward teaching. He humbly includes many personal anecdotes that demonstrate his own sinful nature and struggles. Lost in the Middle is not guilt-inducing, although it is convicting and challenging. Mr. Tripp has the God-given talent of revealing reality, commiserating with us in our struggles, and gently but firmly pointing us toward the Truth.

On a recent snow retreat with extended family, I brought along Lost in the Middle to read during down time. Several family members teased me for reading a book about midlife when I am "only" 34 years old. Of course, I claimed to simply be precocious and preparing for the future! The truth is even though I am not currently experiencing a midlife crisis, God used Lost in the Middle to minister to me in a deep way. I am old enough to have already tasted the bitter fruit of regret. I have already seen certain dreams die, and many expectations fall flat. I am not too young to have found myself lost in the middle of my own story. What a wonder to mediate on the fact that I have been focused on the wrong things! My eyes have been opened to where I have missed God, and my heart has been drawn into seeing Him more fully. I now see that I have been attempting to become the novelist of my own story -- only to realize my story doesn't belong to me at all! Mr. Tripp advises us to put our focus on the true main character of the story, "When the glory of God's story begins to amaze and thrill you, you will never again be seduced by the pseudo-glory of any story you could write for yourself."

Lost in the Middle is a poignant book for those struggling with midlife crisis. But if you aren't experiencing midlife crisis, don't let that stop you from reading this wonderful book. Lost in the Middle serves to challenge, convict, encourage and inspire any of us with a few years behind us! Best of all, Lost in the Middle points us toward God and causes our hearts to join with Paul David Tripp in giving God all the glory!

Product Review by Deborah Burt, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2009