When it comes down to it, most of us don’t like change–especially when it’s unexpected. I am no exception.
The reality is, however, change is all around us.
Last year, I went from living in Paris, France to living in Beloit, WI. I went from single to engaged to married. I went from launching campus movements with university students as a part of a parachurch ministry to serving as a pastoral resident at my local church. My life has been filled with transitions over the past 15 months.
Globally, the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic created a variety of transitions for people. Normal became “unprecedented.” Last year was a reminder that one of the few constants we have in life is this: change.
We start or leave jobs. We marry or start a family. We buy a house or we move. We form new relationships or grieve the loss of loved ones. While each transition brings with it new things, they also bring the grief of loss–lost relationships, lost jobs, lost communities.
You will experience transitions. So, as believers, how are we to respond?
root your identity in christ
The common human experience is the temptation to place our identity in things outside of Christ. Our identity is wrapped up in things that will change rather than the One who never will. I struggle with placing my identity in my circumstances. I believe that I am what I do or I am what my job title says I am. I believe my worth comes from the place that I live or from how I compare to others my age (thanks, Instagram).
While I was working for the parachurch ministry, I found my identity in the fact that I was a missionary rather than as a child of God. As a team leader, I believed my worth depended on how well (or poorly) I led my team. When the Lord led me away from that position, I had an identity crisis. Who was I outside of my job as a missionary? Was God still pleased with me if I wasn’t sharing my faith as a part of my vocation? God was teaching me that I was not created to have my identity in anything other than Christ–even something good like evangelism.
Transitions may lead us to an identity crisis, but they offer us an opportunity to trust in God’s love for us. It’s a chance to turn from placing your identity in things that will change and to remain rooted in your identity as a child of God.
look forward to a heavenly home
Transitions remind us that this earth is not our home. We are sojourners, foreigners awaiting the home that is to come. Transitions offer an opportunity to yearn for what is to come and to place our hope in heaven.
D. A. Carson says, “Is not some of the pain and sorrow in this life used in God’s providential hand to make us homesick for heaven, to detach us from this world, to prepare us for heaven, to draw our attention to himself, and away from the world of merely physical things?”
The losses we experience in transition are reminders that we do not yet live in our heavenly home. Because of this, we grieve knowing that our grief will not be our reality forever. We long for what is to come; yet, we do not check out from where the Lord has us presently. We search for new beginnings in the midst of transition all while remembering that this place is not our home. The call to yearn for heaven is a call to place our hope in the home that is yet to come–a home that will perfectly unite us with the One who is able to satisfy us eternally.
trust in God’s providence
Finally, transitions offer us an opportunity to trust in God’s providence. We dread the change that comes along with transitions. In fact, we often try to resist it. Instead of resisting, embrace God’s providence for you in this new season.
For me, this looked like trusting that God is the author of my story. As believers, we often say God is sovereign without really understanding the ramifications of His sovereignty. If God is truly sovereign (and He is), then no action we take exists outside His control. Every situation, even one you wish you could change, is controlled and governed by our loving, sovereign Father.
Beloit, WI is not Paris (thanks, Captain Obvious). For a long time, I felt like God owed me one because I felt stuck living in Beloit. I had a passion for global missions and for seeing college students raised up to go and make disciples in Paris, so why was I in Beloit? Rather than trusting in what God had in store for me in Beloit, I wanted to change my circumstances thinking I knew what was best for me. Trusting in God’s providence has meant receiving the promise of His love for me and trusting that He is working all things for my good according to His perfect wisdom and plan.
Transitions will challenge you. They will push you beyond your comfort zone. You will be tempted to cling to a false sense of control. In whatever transition may come, I urge you to root your identity in Him, yearn for heaven, and consider the providence of God. What might He, in His perfect wisdom and love, have in store for you that you cannot yet see?
David is the pastoral resident at Park City Church. He enjoys spending time outdoors hiking and camping with his wife, Lauren, and their golden retriever, Moose. He also loves running, cooking, and watching sports.