Living for Jesus

How to Handle Big Changes in Life

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Big changes in life are sometimes planned and sometimes not. Planned changes may include getting married, changing jobs, or having children. Unplanned changes could include getting fired, an unwelcome diagnosis, getting divorced, or having children. However these types of changes enter your life – planned or unplanned – we must make choices for those changes to have a positive impact on our lives.

I’ve endured and grown through many big changes in my life. Just a few include having three miscarriages, becoming a mother, my husband moving out without notice and eventually filing for divorce, and going from a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom to a working mother who spent years also going to school part-time. And moving – lots and lots of moving!!!!

Big Changes Are Seldom Easy

We are so addicted to the status quo, to resisting change of any type, that when those big changes come our way, our first inclination is to fight against it. This is normal, natural, and seldom helpful. For example, when my husband moved out, I spent months fighting with him about the why behind it all, instead of accepting this new situation and trying to determine what, if anything, was salvageable.

How much better it would have been if I could have focused on moving forward instead of dredging up the past. To some degree, this is a necessary part of grieving what has been lost. But at some point, I was simply sabotaging myself and my children. It took me months to get to the point where I realized and accepted this.

Once I reached the point of loosening my grip on what was already gone, only then could I move forward. And only then, once I was done being crazy, did my husband – who had already filed for divorce and agreed to my having custody – begin to second-guess himself. Eventually, after much time, counseling, and prayer, we reconciled.

The point? Resisting changes that have already or will soon happen will not help you navigate your way through to a new normal. You’ve probably heard it said that the only sure things in life are death and taxes. I’d add ‘change’ to that list. Change is inevitable.

Change is also hard. Even small changes – like changing your hairstyle – can be difficult. But the big changes, the ones that fill us with excitement, fear, dread, pain, or longing? Those changes, whether good or bad, are almost always hard to accept and adjust to.

Some Things Never Change

While we as humans experience change in our lives over and over again, there are some things that never change. These anchors can help us to be strong with the winds of change blow.

God Himself Never Changes

God never changes. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” In Malachi 3:6 God speaks of Himself when He says, “For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” And in Numbers 23:19, we are confronted with the truth of the immutability – or unchangingness – of God: “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”

God’s Purpose Never Changes

God’s purpose for our lives never changes. 2 Peter 3:9 lays out God’s chief concern regarding our lives and eternity: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Repentance – believing faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior – is what God desires for every person. However, He will not overrule anyone’s free will to ensure that happens. He is deeply grieved over every person who chooses their own way instead of the only Way of Life.

For those of us who have chosen to follow the Way of Jesus, God’s purposes include so much more!  In Jeremiah 29:11 – an oft-quoted verse –  God tells us “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” In the context of the passage, this ‘future and hope’ may include hardship and tears but it ends with rejoicing.

God’s purpose for our lives extends from this world to the next. In this world it includes worship, growth, grace, love, forgiveness, service, and learning humility to mention only a few items. In the next, we are promised eternity with the Lord, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be anydeath; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Revelation 21:3-4).

God’s Presence Never Changes

The Bible gives us multiple promises that we are never alone: Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Joshua 1:9 repeats this promise, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Hebrews 13:5 states that, “for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” Finally, (although there are many more verses), we are promised the Holy Spirit in us wherever we go: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever” (John 14:16).

God’s Word Never Changes

handling big changes in life

As people who try to live according to the Word of God, it is encouraging and steadying to remember that the Word is never changing. Psalm 119:89 states that “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.” In one of the key passages about the inspiration and reliability of Scripture, Peter proclaims “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 2:20-21).

Furthermore, Jesus Himself affirms this truth in Matthew 5:18, “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Also, the gospel writers Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all recorded the truth that Jesus’s own words will remain forever. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:31).

Finally, Revelation 22:18-19 reassures us about the permanence of God’s Word and warns us against changing it. “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.”

How to Handle Big Changes

God’s Word, His character, His presence with us all reassure us in seasons of change. For the truth is that as much as God never changes, as humans we do. We change, the people in our lives change, our circumstances change, and our society changes. While clinging to the anchor of the Truth, we must still accept and navigate changes in our own lives.

First, accept that change is inevitable, and the change you are currently facing will not go away. The ‘ostrich with its head in the sand’ approach is not the way to contentment. You may not have wanted the change, you may have fought against it, you may have prayed against it, yet here it is. Accept it. But remember, nothing stays the same so more changes – changes that you welcome – may still come.

Next, pray. Isn’t that a recurring theme in my writing? Pray that you will accept the change with grace and navigate it with wisdom and strength. Pray that the lives impacted by this change will be drawn closer to the Lord. Pray that you will grow in your faith throughout this process. And pray that God will bring good, even from changes that seem anything but good (Romans 8:28).

Also, make a plan. In the example I gave of my husband moving out, once I accepted the change – and signed the divorce papers – I could move forward. I sold our house (with his approval), bought another one closer to our church and the boys’ school in my own name, and set up a bare-bones budget. I was still going to school and working, making less money than my husband, and had two teenage boys to feed. Money was TIGHT! I needed a plan for paying bills. I was due to graduate in a few months, so that helped my outlook, but still it was difficult.

Enlist your friends, family (if possible – mine was far away), and sisters in Christ. You need support. You need encouragement. You need prayer warriors. I had a dear friend during the time of change I’ve discussed who helped me focus on schoolwork, reminded me to look to the future, prayed with and for me, and cleaned up my mess when I threw things against the wall (like picture frames with glass in them). I was a basket case many, many times. She was always there. And she was a witness to the healing of my heart and the growing of my faith.

Live life one day at a time. Often, during times of big change, life just seems too overwhelming. Focus on the immediate. What needs to be done today, this morning, this hour? Take it one step at a time. Don’t push yourself to have it all figured out. Along with not pushing yourself, don’t make any big decisions. If you’ve been fired, don’t decide now is the time to change churches. If you’re going through a divorce, don’t quit your job even if you hate it. During times of big change, we don’t always think clearly or rationally, so avoid big decisions whenever possible.

Of course, I broke that rule when I sold our house and bought a new one…so there are exceptions!

Finally, try to remember – as difficult as it can be at times – to still have fun. This is especially important if you have children at home. While God is your anchor during times of big change, you are theirs. Laugh with them. Play with them Go on picnics and to playgrounds. Camp out in the living room and build blanket forts. And for you? Enjoy time with friends when the ‘big change’ – whatever it is – is off-limits. No discussing, analyzing, or planning. Just relax and enjoy the company of those who love you.

Change is seldom fun. But it is inevitable. Learning to handle it with grace and wisdom will make your life much more enjoyable. I pray you’ll let changes shape you more into the Christ-like person you were always meant to be.

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