To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
When I look back on my long (too long!) life, it has been full of changes – many of which are similar to the famous verses above. There have been several career changes, marriage, motherhood, and health challenges such as breast cancer. I grew up in a dysfunctional family and experienced emotional and physical abuse at home and among my peers. I had to deal with low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and other fallout from a toxic past. To overcome these things, I had to make a lot of changes along the way.
Why we Hate Change
As human beings, we naturally resist change. We may want to do the right thing and follow Christian principles, but sometimes hit a roadblock (Romans 7:21-23) when we try. Our human nature wants everything to stay the same. Life gets into a comfortable groove that is predictable. The problem is that life does not work that way.
The above quote from the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, however, shows that life is full of ups and downs, and highs and lows. We fail at school, lose our jobs, see other people’s suffering, face physical and mental health challenges, and grieve for lost loved ones. Sometimes, we face tough decisions that have the potential to improve or negatively impact our lives. So how do we deal with changes as Christians?
Recognizing Barriers to Change
Denial: All the evidence shows that something different needs to happen, yet we do not admit it. Instead, we do everything we can to maintain the status quo.
Fear: Change is scary, especially when we are not sure what the outcome will be. We may be afraid of the unknown. Fear of failure can keep us stuck and paralyzed to get out of a bad situation.
Our pride: Sometimes, our pride holds us back from trying something different. We plug away at a job we hate rather than admit it is a bad fit for us. We do not want to admit that we failed at something, so we keep on failing. We want to keep up the facade that we are happily married when we are miserable instead of dealing with the issues.
Resistance to discomfort: We want to feel comfortable and secure. Change upsets us. It may change our routines and our understanding of our world. Life feels so much better when things stay the way they are. Sometimes, change demands that we admit that we did something wrong. Pride resists disturbing the status quo, especially when it means letting go of power or a prestigious position.
How to Deal with Change in a Christian Way
Look at change as a positive thing: It hurt me to face the fact that people have hurt me and deal with the negative emotions they stirred up. In the end, I processed the pain and did what I needed to do to help me heal and move on with my life. I was able to leave much of my emotional baggage behind me and developed a more positive self-image.
Losses are difficult to deal with but can have beneficial effects. When I lost my mother, my sorrow was sometimes overwhelming. Another part of me was glad that she no longer had to suffer because of her poor health anymore. We can find comfort in the knowledge that many changes are temporary. We will survive and thrive when the chaos subsides.
Accept that some changes out of our control: It is normal for us to feel upset and unsettled when life throws us curve balls. Our minds may be full of turmoil and confusion, and we need time to process what has happened. Change is going to happen whether we want it to or not. We will experience grief at the loss of loved ones and friends. We may face job layoffs, chronic illness, or mental health issues. We can survive by deciding to embrace it and pray for God to make something good about it. Then peace of mind can come.
Face our fears: What is keeping us from making the changes we need to do to grow? We may be afraid to leave a boring, unproductive job and begin to look for another one. Or not go on to college, scared that we will fail. Or keep potential mates at bay because we do not trust ourselves to pick the right person. Fear can keep us stuck.
One way that I found helpful in dealing with my fears was to imagine the worst-case scenario. I believe that our fears often come from our terror of the unknown. Knowing and facing possible outcomes can reassure us that we can handle whatever comes our way.
Be willing to change: At some point, we need to accept that change is necessary for our personal growth. For example, if we want to lose weight, we need to avoid foods we consume for comfort and gratification. Exercise will need to become a part of our lives.
Accept responsibility for our choices: Sometimes, unsettling things happen to us because of our decisions. We need to accept responsibility for the outcomes rather than blame others when things go wrong. Beating ourselves up is not productive and harmful to our self-esteem.
Seek support: Friends, counselors, pastors, and mental health professionals can help us deal with new circumstances. Talking to someone helps us to deal with overwhelming emotions.
Hang in there: Once we are committed to doing life differently, we need to stay the course. If we are determined to change our job, we must do what we can to achieve our goals. If we want to exercise more, we must get adequate sleep and schedule our time. If we want to lose weight, we must plan our meals and avoid certain foods when shopping.
Celebrate our victories: When we overcome challenging times, we develop more confidence in ourselves to face an uncertain future. We can look back when we feel overwhelmed and take heart.
God is the one constant in a world full of turmoil. He will always be with us and never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:8). His love is there, even when we are overwhelmed with turbulent emotions or afraid of what the future may bring. When we need to make big decisions, he will guide us in the way that we should go (Psalm 32:8, 119:105). We will experience peace of mind and acceptance of what will be – good or bad.