FACING CHANGE CREATIVELY
BY DR. RICHARD DOBBINS
The way a person deals with change is vitally important to his or her mental health. To cope with major changes, we need the natural ability to adapt that God has given to each of us. Starting with the radical changes at birth–from the safety and security of the womb into the environment of the “outside world”–and going right through infancy, childhood and even into adulthood, life is filled with changes. And we naturally learn to adapt to change.
When we come to Christ, we break out of the confines of our natural life and are born into His divine family. Then, we have His additional help to cope with any and all changes life may have for us.
After all, life is a series of constant changes for us. Usually, this begins in the 20’s with serious male-female relationships. Then, marriage changes us dramatically in every sense: spiritually, emotionally, socially, and physically. Marriage changes our relationships with our friends as we move out of the single world into the world of married couples.
With every dramatic change, there comes a time of stress and adjustment. Marriage is no exception! Sometimes it takes as long as 2-5 years for people to learn how to be married. Married life is very different from single life. But if you bring into the marriage an unselfish attitude, you have an important basic spiritual and emotional tool for dealing creatively with changes related to marriage and making marriage work.
Once children come into the marriage, you’re in for other drastic changes. Having a little baby changes your social life. You can’t go out after church. You can’t have a free social life in the middle of the week. You must care for that little bundle you’re attached to and who is so dependent on you. So, you soon discover that God will help you cope with the pressures and changes that come with marriage and parenting.
Assuming change is a normal, natural part of life helps you to deal more effectively with it. Look back over your life and see all of the changes God has helped you deal with. He does not simply help us to survive change, but enables us to thrive in it. Remember, the God who was there through change in the past will be there with us through future change.
To be comfortable with change we need some fixed and unchangeable points of reference. In our world virtually everything is changing. A person feels anxious and insecure. However, with some fixed points of reference we become more secure.
If necessary, a secure person can tolerate great amounts of uncertainty for long periods of time. This is one of the characteristics of faith. The stronger your faith is, the more ambiguity you can tolerate.
For Bible readers, Abraham is a symbol of faith. When God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees, he didn’t know where God was going to lead him. Sarah also had to have faith. They went out not knowing where they were headed, but willing to trust God to reveal the destination of each day’s journey (see Genesis 12:1-5). Such trust is an important quality of faith.
So much of our anxiety about life comes from attempting to figure out the future. But God is there in the future already! There’s no place we are going that He has not already been. We need to trust the God who’s led us in the past to lead us in the future.
This is the nature of faith. I’m serving a God who loves me and will provide for me. I don’t have to figure out the future. I just need to trust Him with it.
The Author of our faith is able to fill in the blanks of our future. Many times we want Him to tell us what goes in the blanks before it is time for Him to write it there. Learn to be patient and let Him fill them in.
Minimizing the number of things you must know about the future will help you face the change it may bring more creatively. For example, a good navigator doesn’t need many instruments to get across the ocean. He only needs a sextant, a clear sky, and a compass.
Realize it is not necessary to know a lot of things in order to be at peace with yourself and enjoy life. We need to know the abundance of God’s love. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13 that strong faith grows out of hope and hope grows out of God’s love: “Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (verse 13, NIV). Hope is the outgrowth of love and the seedbed of faith.
Abounding in God’s love and sharing His love with others makes us more aware of God’s love, thus more hopeful about life, and stronger in faith.
The first fixed point of reference God gives us for helping us face change is His unchanging nature. He said in Malachi 3:6: “I am the Lord, I change not. ” We serve an unchangeable trustworthy God.
Another of God’s unchangeable reference points is His Son. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). What an exciting challenge change can be when we rely on His wonderful promise: “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).
A third unchangeable reference point is God’s Word. Jesus declares, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33). So our unchangeable reference points in a changing world are God’s nature, His Son and His Word.
But some believers mistakenly assume that, since God is unchangeable, when they become like Him they will be just as unchangeable. In their mind, being rigid. Inflexible, dogmatic is to be godlike. They believe that a real Christian never changes. For them, to be open to change even in minor areas, is equated with compromising, backsliding and losing out with God.
With God’s help, we can see change more objectively. Since God and Christ are perfect, they don’t need to change. However, we believers are not perfect. If we are to become more Christlike and Godlike, we need to be able to stay open to change.
Here is a statement God helped me to frame when I was anxious about changing any of my views during my graduate training. It kept me open to change, but protected me from the kind of change that would indicate a compromise of faith. Perhaps, it will help you too: To live is to grow, to grow is to change. If you cannot discern the difference between the change that results from growth and the change that results in the loss of your faith, the fear of losing your faith makes you resist all change-and your faith becomes an inhibitor rather than a facilitator of growth.
God has great opportunities for you to grow. As long as your love for Jesus stays the same or intensifies, as long as your hunger for the Word of God abides and intensifies, and as long as your desire to be with God’s people is still there, don’t resist the change.
Keep on growing. God has a wonderful future for you no matter what changes life may hold.
THREE TIPS FOR FACING CHANGE CREATIVELY
1. Minimize those things in life you think you need to know absolutely. Simplify your life. Rely on God to take care of change as it comes into your life.
2. Connect more closely with God’s faith-building love. Seek the Holy Spirit’s help and presence to make you abound in the love of God daily.
3. Remember God’s faithfulness. Recalling His past blessings and help will enable you to trust Him amidst change today and tomorrow!
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY MEDIA MINISTRIES OF THE ASSEMBLIES OF GOD, VOL. 1, NO. 11. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.