A friend made a comment recently that highlighted the difficulty I am having with a current change in my life. She said casually, “What a great opportunity, Robyn”. I had to acknowledge I hadn’t viewed it that way. I have been too mired in my own emotional junk about the changes to recognize the gift in them. This really humbled me. I had to confess my whiny attitude to God, and ask for His eyes to see the changes as He did. Almost immediately, I experienced a new peace that had evaded me before. Not that all my bad attitudes vanished. I am still in the process of disentangling the knotty, emotional mess, but this shift in thinking has helped me significantly. It has settled me down, allowing my focus to turn away from myself, and to God.
Change always challenges our faith. We are all prone to settle into our comfort zones. We like things to be predictable; to know what to expect, and what is expected from us. A change is unsettling. Especially when it involves real sacrifice on our part. Everyone wants to feel competent and useful. A change makes us question ourselves again, and go back around the “mountain” of self for a little review. I have found this part problematic because it encourages the wrong focus and stirs up the bad emotions. Comparison is carnal, and overshadows our thinking; blocking our ability to consider the good God is bringing in and through the changes. Pining over the past always undermines our ability to respond rightly in the present.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18, 19).
No one sees gifts at a pity party.
We cannot conceive the new thing when we are still underneath the old 1,000 pound gorilla. How can we recognize the opportunity in change and rise to the occasion? Here are three practical ways God is helping me right now, to move through change in a way that honors Him, and builds my faith:
Fix Your Eyes on the Goodness and Sovereignty of God: We’ve all heard things like “Nothing happens that doesn’t first pass through God’s hand” and the like. I don’t know about you, but sometimes this is not all that helpful when I am in the throes of change. We start to wonder why God would allow these painful, difficult, unfair things to happen. If God is good than why does He want me to feel so bad? This is a slippery slope in change. If we allow ourselves to follow these thoughts, we will slide down into self-pity, anger, resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness, etc. We must redirect our thoughts and emotions back to what we KNOW is true of God. What have we personally experienced of God? How faithfully He has led us through life to this point. How merciful and gracious He has been toward us. How much He loves us, and what His love accomplished for us on the Cross of Christ. I fill my mind and mouth with Scriptures that affirm God in His Goodness. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy – think about such things…And the peace of God will be with you” (Phil.4 :8,9). I also meditate on God as the Creator of all. He has made everything, and in Him all things hold together. This includes my little life and the changes that seem so big in the moment. Thinking about God’s bigness helps level set my thinking, and brings perspective on the true size and significance of what I am going through. The perceived mountain is really only a molehill. Try this: visualize the earth spinning on its axis in the huge expanse of space. I do this sometimes while looking up at the sky and imagining what lies beyond it, past my ability to see or grasp. Think about the conditions required to keep the planet in place, and to supply the right atmospheric conditions to sustain life – your life and the breath you are taking right here and now. God literally holds the whole world in His hands. Breathe deeply as you think about this. Let the physical air you are drawing in renew your spirit in recognition of God’s Sovereign control over all aspects of all of life.
Honestly Confess, Humbly Receive: We do have to come to terms with the fact that God allowed the change, no matter how difficult or painful. In my experience, it does little to deny our true feelings and responses. If you are angry, confess it to God and ask for help in ridding you of the harmful emotions. Ask God to give you right thoughts and feelings about the change, and the other people involved. Confess it when you’ve taken out your bad emotions on others. Own your responses in truth before God. Nothing is hidden in His sight. This is not a one-time event. This is a perpetual process as you move through the change. When the anger, unforgiveness, etc. rear up again, go to God again – every time. Name it for what it is, and draw near to Him in humble dependence. He is able to make all grace abound to you. He values a broken and contrite heart who desires to live in a way that pleases Him. He knows that we are dust, with limited ability to response rightly. And His grace is greater than all our sin. The reward in doing this comes when you observe your own thinking and feelings changing – for the better. This is a subtle, gradual change, like heavy clouds parting to let the light peek through. “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day” (Proverbs 4:18).
Offer a Sacrifice of Praise: Nothing pushes back the darkness more effectively than worship. Come to God and make your offering, whether or not you feel like it. “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess His name” (Hebrews 13:15). I look for things I can praise God for in the midst of change. Instead of focusing the things we don’t like about change, focus on thanking God for the good He has allowed and sustained in your life. For example, I have been thanking God for the years He allowed me to serve in a ministry I love. I thank Him for the people He has brought into my life and allowed me to serve alongside – for their influence, leadership, and blessing to me, and to my family. This confuses the enemy and diffuses every harmful ploy he launches in our direction. Worship closes every opening and allows no foothold for the enemy to entice you down the wrong path. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).
How do you navigate change? I’d love to hear your experiences in trying out these practical ways, and other ways that have personally helped you. Whatever change you are in the midst of, hear God on this, “I the Lord do not change” (Malachi 3:6). “Don’t be deceived…every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created” (James 1:16-18).
Seeing the good and perfect gift in your change is the fruit of faith.