My life passes as swiftly as the evening shadows. Psalm 102:11 (NIV) I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me. Psalm 42:7 (NLT)
Being on the crest of the baby boomer wave, those born between 1946 and 1964, now beginning to break upon the shores of the senior years, gives one a unique perspective. Despite the fact that we need glasses to read everything within arm’s length, anyone who has survived six decades of the passages of life navigating through both calm and stormy seas, still has the capability of 20/20 hindsight. As a new member of this fast growing salty-dog club, if you will, I found it insightful to gaze back upon the many stages and phases of life through which I have passed, many of them associated simply with aging. In the process I have been giving serious consideration to those aspects of inevitable change which are common to everyone and how best with God’s help, to learn to cope with such transitions.
Recently I gave a sermon at church in which I shared a biblical model for the three major passages of life based on 1 John 2:12-14. Titling it “Transition Lenses for the Passages of Life” I covered seven different phases of life through which everyone must pass and the purposes of God meant to be instilled along the way. Using an audience response system to poll everyone I discovered a startling fact. 80% of all those in attendance at both services acknowledged that they felt they were “in some phase of a major transition” in their life right now. That was true spanning every age, and interestingly enough, particularly for the 46-55 age bracket.
What I have discovered is that there are at least four things which everyone experiences when faced with navigating a transition, be it an inevitable passage of life, or a change of choice for a preferred future. Recognizing these common responses to change has helped me immensely in appropriating God’s sustaining grace as I learn to adapt. I pray that they can do the same for you.
1. GRIEF – Typically one of the first reactions to transition is grief because most change is triggered by or involves dealing with a loss. Jesus taught that when it comes to change “no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for He says, ‘The old is better.’” (Luke 5:39 NIV) The good things of life, the things to which we have become accustomed and enjoy, we hate to see phased out. And so it is natural to grieve and mourn our losses. Endings, particularly the death of loved ones, relationships, familiar surroundings, financial security or health are painful and difficult. But God, who promises to comfort us in all of our afflictions, is always there to shepherd us through the valley of the shadow of death. (2 Corinthians 1:4 & Psalm 23:4)
2. RELIEF – Ironically with change and loss, a balm of relief often accompanies the pain of grief. There is a sense of relief that comes with being able to leave behind the difficult, inconvenient or stretching aspects of the old. Every phase of life has its’ downsides and change affords the opportunity to lay the things aside you were ready to be done with. I loved watching my children compete in traveling basketball in their elementary school years, but to be honest I hated all the driving, money spent and time eating junk food in stale sweaty gyms. I was sad to see my children move on to high school but relieved to get my weekends back. There is a redemptive side to every loss and worth seeking God to discover it. Relief falls naturally under the category of the “things that work together for good.” (Romans 8:28)
3. FEAR – Every change inevitably confronts us with our fears. The big fears in life’s transitions are fear of the unknown or unfamiliar, fear of lack or scarcity, fear of abandonment and being alone, and fear of failure and further loss. These trigger worry and anxiety and could cause a person, given the choice, to wade back out of the waters of change with cold feet. A whole generation of Israelites missed out on the Promised Land because of the fear of giants. Again and again in the scriptures we are assured that we can face our fears because God is with us and will not forsake us. He is the solution to all that we fear. He is our light and our salvation, whom or what then should we fear? (Psalm 27:1-2)
4. HOPE – The glorious side of change is a hope in God that there is yet a preferred future in store for those who love Him. One day, He promises us, things will be better. That hope sustained the Israelites in the wilderness and ultimately helped them triumph over their grief’s and fears and finally carried them across the Jordan. When a person embraces the God factor in the midst of life’s passages, there is a sustaining grace that helps beat back the downsides of change and temptations to despair. “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) Hope, like the oxygen we breathe, is what keeps us alive when endings and death engulf us, and invigorates us to press ahead into our future.
Please share your observations or lessons learned in coping with major transitions in your life.
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