No one gets to detour unexpected changes. We don’t get to dismiss surprise challenges or uninvited trials. For better or for worse, those three never knock and ask permission. They simply barge in and take a seat. All of us have experienced this at some level. No one is exempt.
Don’t assume I’m implying all of the above is negative. Often the very times in life when change and adjustment scream the loudest and demand the most are the times in life that produce the greatest growth. Change can be a good thing. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
In fact, I recently pondered some of those “good-but-not-easy-times-of-change” in my own life—moving from Tennessee to Iowa in 1996, having four kids all under ten for a few years, and planting a church, to name a few. In each of these times I implemented three core practices that enabled me and our family to do more than survive the pace of the changes; we actually embraced and enjoyed it.
- Non-negotiable time with and trust in God. There’s always more going on than meets the eye, and the truest reality is the one we can’t see. Refuse to let the physical dictate or disrupt the spiritual by staying consistent in Bible study and prayer. This is the single greatest factor in keeping a proper perspective in times of overwhelming change.
- Increased communication and unity with my wife. I’ve always maintained if you win with your wife you’ll win in life. Thus, hibernation isn’t an option when the pace of change picks up. Talk more, listen well, and work hard towards unity as a couple. Fight the tendency to let the relationship coast a bit, assuming your marriage’s autopilot will guide you. After all, there is no cruise control in times of unexpected transition. Be intentional about your most important human relationship and communicate, communicate, communicate.
- Provide some understanding of the “tunnel of time.” Everyone does better if they know how long the change will last. So do your best to provide the light at the end of the tunnel. One may not know an exact time frame, but give it a best guess. I’m always amazed at how deep my—and others’—resolve becomes when there is some general projection about the length of the journey.
Admittedly, I don’t think any of us then would have been able to itemize these “practices” so succinctly. But hindsight is always clearer, isn’t it? The rearview mirror is a handy learning tool, and we and others benefit when we take a glance in it once the change has settled a bit.
Frankly, sudden change is such that often you know what you have to do when you’re in the middle of it—just get through it—but understanding and explaining it doesn’t always occur till afterwards. Fortunately, for the Christian, God has given us his Holy Spirit to guide, comfort, and empower in just such “get-through-this” moments. This means overwhelming seasons of change don’t have to be met with merely human resolve or man-empowered tactics. They can be undertaken, instead, with a divine confidence that God is on our side and will use every single item for our eventual good and his ultimate glory (Romans 8).