We all know it’s true…change is never easy. For some of us, it is more difficult than for others. I suppose it has a lot to do with personality and age. The older we get, the more difficult change seems to be. Also, certain personalities don’t adapt well to change and it can be a traumatic experience.
Of course, the precipitating circumstance that produces the change can have a lot to do with the ease or difficulty as well. Loss of a spouse, an obviously painful event, makes the change much more difficult than, say, making the transition from one employment position to another. However, there will always be a challenge of some degree when we go through transitions. It’s a part of life. We can expect it. As a matter of fact, growth and maturity doesn’t come without it. So change has its purpose. Solomon expressed this in the following passage:
1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
What to Do
So…since change is inevitable, and even useful, it would do us well to think through how to maneuver transitions. Although not exhaustive, here are some tips that may be of help the next time you face a difficult transition in your journey.
1. Recognize that it is natural
That may sound trite and too simplistic, but the reality is this…accepting something as a normal part of life will get you miles down the road toward maneuvering the transition successfully. Such an acceptance impacts our attitude toward the change. As we look at it with a heart that says, “I don’t like this, but I know it is normal,” we are more apt to deal with the transition with less stress and not fight against it so terribly…even if we know it is a “necessary evil.”
2. Put it in perspective
In the midst of a situation, we may feel as though it is too overwhelming…that life is about to end. We may not be able to see the forest for the trees, so to speak. The emotional dynamics; our fear, worry, discomfort, and awkwardness may cause us to have blinders that prevent our seeing the bigger picture. When we step back and try to put things into perspective (much like Solomon was doing in the passage above) it will make dealing with the transition easier.
3. See God’s hand in it
This is closely related to the previous tip. When we begin to put things into perspective, realizing it isn’t the end of the world, we will come to a place that we can begin to look for God’s fingerprints on the situation. Often, God grows us through change and transition. He moves us for His purposes…purpose to be worked out in us and through us. I remember when I shared with my wife that I had been contacted about considering my present ministry position, her initial reaction was negative. This was because she knew it would mean our moving much further away from our then-college-student daughter. However, as we both began to see God’s hand at work, we knew it was the right move for us and we were able to maneuver the transition with much more peace and grace. Ask God to show you His purpose in the changes of life. If He chooses to show you, you will be blessed. If He withholds that from you, you will have to trust that He is at work doing what is best, even when you can’t see what He is up to on the surface.
4. Seek to grow through it
Continuing to build on the last two points, this is the logical next step. Gaining a bigger perspective, and looking for God’s hand working in the situation, will enable you to be in a place spiritually and emotionally that you can ask God to use the transition to mold you. This is a very practical way to embrace the promise of Romans 8:28-29. Just as an athlete must stretch himself by pushing his limits in order to improve his skills, we can only have our faith increased and developed as we are stretched. One example is the instruction of James 1:2-4. Our “stretching” brings steadfastness and our steadfastness brings us to a place of no lack in our growth and strength.
5. Let God be glorified through it
Handling a transition with spiritual maturity and humility will bring glory to God. Why? Because it is impossible to do that well without His help. The Holy Spirit develops our character by producing His fruit in us. We find these in Galatians 5:22-24. Specifically, this fruit which establishes the character of Christ in us are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. As we exercise this fruit, by the power and working of the Holy Spirit, people see that we are operating in a different realm and it gives the opportunity for God to be praised and glorified as we make it known from where our ability to transition so well comes. When He is glorified, people are given the truth about who He is and what He can do for them.
6. Pray about it
This seems almost too simplistic and cliche’, however, it is significantly important. Prayer is such a source of wisdom, power and grace as you maneuver change. Without it, you will have too much worry, too much fear and too much doubt. That is why the Apostle Paul reminds us, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Prayer brings a peace that will guard your heart and mind from these enemies. In the midst of change, you need such peace.
A Final Word
You may not have thought that a simple life transition or change could have so much impact or importance. However, since it is so common to all people…something we all face, it provides a great opportunity for growth, deepening faith and outreach to a lost world around us. Your life transition may be coming as a result of your choice, a typical life cycle phase, or it may be the result of someone’s decision over which you had no control…even with which you strongly disagree. Regardless, all of these tips apply.
As you consider these thoughts, I want to leave you with a few final words about the very pragmatic, yet profoundly spiritual, process that needs to take place. Here, without any expansion, are some important things to consider.
- Don’t make more of it than need be.
- Resist the urge to “give someone a piece of your mind” who made the choice that causes change in your life.
- When leaving, ease out with little fanfare and commotion.
- Exercise humility and remain under the gracious hand of God.
- Listen to the advice of spiritually mature people whom God brings into your life.
- If you can’t speak well of those who are involved in the transition, don’t say anything at all.
- Talk it out with a trusted friend as you deal with the frustrations, fears and anger.
- When your spiritual authority/leaders have presented their decisions, support them unless they have violated a Scriptural principle.
- Give the benefit of the doubt to those who are involved until you have been convinced they are at fault.
Change is never easy, but it is beneficial, necessary, and a natural part of life. Learning how to navigate it with spiritual maturity and grace will make the process play out exactly as God intends and the outcome will be a blessing to you and bring glory to God.