As I approach a sixty-third birthday this summer there are unknown changes on the horizon of my life that, frankly, frighten me. I realize there is much in my future that is not in my control. Health, retirement finances, longevity as a pastor at SBCC, surfing ability, and wondering if my grandkids will like me as they get older are just some of the approaching issues that cause me to pause. I know that I am not alone in wondering and, at times, worrying about what is next.
How is it going? This generic question that we often ask of friends and acquaintances is frequently answered with a hurried response about how life is changing. I’m in a season of transition, is a retort I hear often. It has dawned on me that life, from birth to death, is one long series of transitions. We move from one stage of life to another, often times seamlessly and unaware of the change and at other times painfully or joyfully cognizant that we are embarking on the next step. Sometimes change is our friend and sometimes it is our enemy. But one thing is for sure, life never stays the same for too long. Transitions and change in life are the norm rather than the exception.
We see change most clearly in the very young. A baby goes from milk to solid food, from immobility to crawling and eventually walking, from screaming unintelligibly to a few words and then eventually, real speech. We transition from grade school to junior high and then high school and possibly college and beyond. Entry-level jobs hopefully give way to a career. Most of us lived at home with our parents, moved out for a season, then came home broke for another short stint of parental care before launching for good. If we are blessed with a spouse, this is a major transition. Having children is a big deal and rearranges your life for eighteen years or so. And then when they leave, the house gets quiet and stays clean, but it also entails another season of adjustment for mom and dad. Tragically, if a divorce should ensue we face another change of the unwanted variety. A geographical move, a new job, a new church, a new house, fresh friends, a health crisis, financial difficulties, and more can all upset the equilibrium of life.
Getting older also necessitates another period of transitions. At some point in middle age we admit (usually only to ourselves) that we are no longer the twenty-something athletic stud of our imagination. We start pondering the whenof retirement, downsizing, and how to spend more time with the grandkids. We have more prescriptions and less energy. And, possibly our friendships are changing. Life gets smaller.
Whatever our age and stage of life, it is worth asking how we are handling the inevitable transitions of life. Think about what changes have taken place in the last few years of your life. What changes have been positive? What transitions have been difficult and even unwanted? How have you navigated these changes as a Christian? How have they affected your spiritual life?
Christians know our faith should be sufficient for every season. But why? What is it about our faith that should provide stability through the uneven flux of life? Put simply, it is God. When changes in life come and the uncertainty that accompanies these life passages confuse and alarm us, we would do well to focus on the unchangeable character and promises of God.
James, the half brother of Jesus puts it succinctly. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17). Are you alarmed by the rapidly changing world situation? Do the threats of a nuclear North Korea, Jihadist Islam, or a militant Iran unsettle you? Are you losing sleep over our economy and your job prospects? Has the doctor’s diagnosis caused you to worry about your future? None of these events take God by surprise or change him. In our shifting world, God remains the same. It is in his unchanging character that the believer is to find comfort and security.
The prophet Amos was anxious for Israel to understand who God was in the midst of very uncertain times. He reminded them about the nature of their God. He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, who turns the dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth—the Lord God Almighty is his name. (Amos 4:13) In this short verse God’s people were reminded that God was in control. As Creator, he is the one who forms the mountains, andcreates the wind. He made it all and it is his. He is also the God who providentially sustains the world he created. Our world continues to function because he is the one who, turns the dawn to darkness and treads the high places of the earth. This God is also the one who speaks as he reveals his thoughts to man. We are not left in the dark to wonder what God is thinking.
Jesus had a lot to say about our tendency to worry and fret over the uncertainty that change can bring to our lives. In the best sermon ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus bids his followers to not worry precisely because God, who is Father, knows our life situation and he cares for us. The changes that surprise us do not surprise God.
One thing is for certain in each of our lives: transitions…. Change and new passages will invade and unsettle the calm all of us crave. Without the loving fatherhood of God I could easily see myself descending to despair. Yet with the strong and sure embrace of a loving heavenly father who is not capricious in his nature or fickle with his promises I can face the years ahead with confidence. In the midst of these seasons, whether pleasurable or difficult, we are invited to trust in the unchangeable nature of God and his rock solid promise that he will never leave or forsake us. So remind yourself about the unchangeable nature of God and his loving promises to those who trust him. Let each of us say with the Psalmist, The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies (Psalm 118:6-7).