As we all know, nothing is as certain as change. We don't have to court it; it is ever-present. Even so, we do need to pay attention to our relationship with change, and make sure we are engaging it in ways that are both creative and positively transforming. Change will occur whether we participate or not. It’s up to us to consider how change can be experienced as life-giving.
When you commit to making a change in your life, your path may be shaped by surrounding forces. Certainly, this was true for many of the people we find in Scripture. The stories of Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Jonah, Peter, Paul, Nicodemus, Zaccheus, Mary, and Joseph remind us of the pressures they faced as they sought to navigate the changes in their lives. Sometimes they were faced with a roadblock. At other times, they found encouragement and nurture for the desired change.
In our own lives, we can find many factors that both strengthen and diminish the course of change we have decided to take. These factors include thoughts and patterns that cause us to resist the change, psychological and emotional behaviors that keep us from embracing the change, and relational situations that may seem to keep change from occurring.
When we first decide to make a change, we feel an initial sense of excitement and confidence that what we have in mind can be accomplished. We may even visualize the change and imagine how it will affect the quality of our lives. As we begin to take steps toward change, we may find ourselves encountering such things as:
- Fear—Fear of the impact of the change, fear of our own ability to navigate the change, fear of what the change may ultimately require of us, fear that we are misreading or misinterpreting the signs we are being given, fear that we will be found inadequate to the task, or even fear that the change may separate us from others we value and love.
- Uncertainty—Uncertainty about the need for the change or distrust of those who may be advocating the change, uncertainty that the change will yield positive and useful results, uncertainty that we have the resources to bring the change to fruition, or uncertainty that others in our lives will support and encourage us in the change.
Just as these obstacles can feel like inhibitors to change, there are other factors that encourage and support change:
- Confidence—Confidence that we are able to detect the signs that lead to change, confidence that we will have the courage to follow through even when fear looms near, confidence that those who give us feedback have our best interest at heart, and confidence that we will gain more than we lose.
- Trust—Trust that we have all we need to implement the change, trust that we will have the support and resources we need, trust that the change will ultimately result in a new way of being, trust that God is leading and directing us, and trust that we are not alone in the process of change.
For change to be effective in our lives, it is important to pay attention to the forces that can impede and hinder its growth and those that will strengthen and undergird it. Because change doesn't occur in a vacuum, nor is it an isolated event, we will find that when we attend to these various factors, we will be allowing ourselves to be open to God and to others who may have a word for us from God. When we exercise the faith that we are not alone, the changes that may seem impossible to achieve become an exciting and challenging adventure. Rather than merely preferring security and familiarity, we find ourselves looking with anticipation and desire to the changes that are a natural part of the unfolding of human life.
Navigating Change Exercise
Reflect on Past Change
As with almost every experience in life, change is more fruitful when considered in reflection. Use the prompts below to consider how you have responded to change:
- Reflect on a change that you have made in your life. Try to capture the feelings, motivations, and outcomes of the change.
- As you remember the process, what were the fears and uncertainties you needed to overcome? What confidence and trust did you cling to?
- If you were making the same change now, what might you do differently?
- Where was your greatest support? What was your greatest hindrance?
- If someone asked you how to navigate that change in their life, what advice would you give them?
Preparation for Future Change
Consider a change on the horizon. Use the following prompts to see that change more clearly:
- Reflect on a change that you think you need to make or plan to make in the near future. Try to visualize and capture the specific features of the change as you understand it.
- What are your fears and uncertainties in regard to this change? What confidence and trust can you cling to?
- Based on your past experience of change, what do you want to avoid as you think about making this new change?
- Where do you believe your greatest support will come from and how can you access that support?
- What do you perceive will be your greatest hindrance, and what can you do to minimize its power?
- If someone asked you how to make this change in their life, what advice would you give them?