I used to have an idea that I can do change pretty well. Truth is, God did make me a pretty adaptable person, and I guess that’s a good thing considering the lifestyle God has led me into. But this past year has been revamping and challenging my ability to adapt quickly. Mission life can do that to you, I guess, but not just mission life. Life in general is just always subject to change, and can so often leave you reeling, not quite sure how that threw you for a loop.
So I’ve been on a mission over the past weeks, asking God to teach me what it means to do change well. My life has been one of continual change in the past year. From moving away from family and across the seas, living with Thai people, then not living with them anymore, joining a team in a ministry, saying goodbye to several very close friends who left here, one teammate leaving and another one coming, my family leaving the church I’ve always been a part of and grew up in, our team starting discipleship skills training within the ministry, and lots of little things in between. I don’t claim to have experienced as much continual change as some people, but the truth is, we all face it to a certain degree, especially if we choose to live with a surrendered heart towards God. He has a tendency to lead His people onto paths of unpredictability, where we are forced to choose to trust Him.
I’ve been feeling like maybe after all, I just don’t do change well, and it’s far too easy for me to hold tightly to same-ness and cling even harder to those close to me in order for some semblance of comfort and familiarity. I suppose that in and of itself is not all bad, but it can so quickly turn to control and the inability to enjoy life because you’re always fearing what’s going to happen up ahead.
God has been so faithful through this past year since I joined Ransom—and I’d say this is one of the bigger lessons He’s emphasizing to me now. Some of the things He’s been reminding me of lately…
Don’t hold on to the past
It’s so easy to do, and it’s so easy to try to recreate the past with what we enjoyed the most about a certain period. Every once in awhile I get a certain ache when I remember memories or precious things/experiences from the past, but I have to realize that each one of them was a gift to me from God, for that time, just as today also is a gift from His hand. If I spend too much time thinking about those things back there, I miss the joy of what He’s giving me today just by not being aware of the gift that it is.
Surrender the future
One of the most cliché things to say, but it’s true. It’s also easy to say, but not easy to do. Here is yet another area where we can totally miss the joy of today by worrying about tomorrow. My tendency when I am seeing change in the future is to allow fear to sneak in. What will it be like? What if I don’t have what I need? What if, what if, what if??? “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matt 6)
“…don’t ever allow yourself to begin trying to picture what it will be like. Believe me, when you get to the places which you dread you will find that they are as different as possible from what you have imagined…” (Hinds Feet on High Places)
So far, to my knowledge, it’s never really gotten anyone anywhere to worry, or try to imagine what’s in the future. From my own experience, it totally detracts from the moment and causes more stress than anything.
Lately the exercise that helps me the most when I tempted to look into the future and worry is to remember that He is my Shepherd, and that He will always provide just what I need and when I need it.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”
It most likely won’t always be what I think it should be, but it will be enough, and it will be good. Because whenever I look into the past, even where I see pain, I see His faithfulness standing out and above it all. Looking back always reminds me of times when I thought I wouldn’t make it, but I always did, and He did give me what I needed for that time. And I smile because I know…I KNOW that the future is safe in His hands.
Live fully today
One of the biggest things I’m processing right now is the fact that on the field, people are coming and going all the time. Saying goodbyes becomes a part of life that is just reality, as much as we might hate it. But if I spend time dwelling on the inevitable goodbyes for close, dear friends, I can totally miss the opportunities that I have with them today, while they’re still here.
What are ways that I can live fully in the gift of today? One thing that helps me is to fill my thoughts with thoughts of gratefulness. View everything as a gift from His hand and thank Him for it, good or bad. It totally changes your outlook from feeling as though you are owed, to realizing all that you are receiving unworthily.
“When I realize that it is not God Who is in my debt, but I who am in His great debt, then doesn’t all become a gift?” Anne Voskamp
Don’t try to control
And as bad as it sounds, be willing to embrace pain. The truth is, pain and joy flow together on parallel tracks. To receive one in its fullness, you receive the other. To stifle pain is to stifle joy in its fullness. It’s so tempting to try to protect yourself from the pain that comes from so much change. To try to control any semblance of sameness and not be willing to embrace change shows a lack of trust in God’s plan. Do I really think my plan is better than His, or am I willing to lay down what I think is best and entrust my life and future into His hands?
It’s scary, it’s risky, and it’s hard. Sometimes it feels like we’re stepping out on a limb with no promise of tomorrow. Maybe we are. But as we relinquish control to God, we are stepping into a vulnerable place that may actually turn out to be something incredibly wonderful and beautiful.
My lack of trust and my tendency to control pretty much always stems from the fact that I am not believing God. I’m not believing what He clearly says in His Word.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matt. 11:28,29)
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.(Phil. 4:19)
No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:37-39)
And on and on it goes. It’s true, life is unpredictable, and bad or terrible things may happen. But in spite of that, He does promise to provide whatever we need for those moments. And we can always know that no matter what we face in the future, we have the promise of a perfect home and eternal reward that will make it all worthwhile. (2 Cor. 4:17)
And my favorite part? He never changes. We know that, but sometimes we don’t really know it. God really, truly is unchanging. Sometimes when the winds of change threaten to overwhelm me, I remember to be still and know that He is God. One of my favorite songs right now is Be Still and Know by Steven Curtis Chapman:
Be still and know that He is faithful
Consider all that he has done
Stand in awe and be amazed
And know that He will never change
What a reminder that our longing for sameness and stability can be found in God and God alone. As long as we search for it here on earth, in others, in circumstances or in feelings, we will be disappointed over and over again. But not with Him. He never changes.
So what is my conclusion in my search for how to do change well? I don’t know if I’ll really ever be able to do it well. The truth is, it sometimes hurts, and probably always will to a certain degree. But the simple fact of the matter is that God is faithful, good, and my Provider. I don’t need to fear the future, and I don’t need to fear change. I can embrace it fully because when I look back, I see the how He’s always done it for me before, so I know He’ll keep doing it.