“Change is the essence of life; be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.” ― Reinhold Niebuhr
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” ― Isaiah 40:8
Do you remember that mix of excitement and uncertainty you had when first stepping onto a new campus? What about the nervous anticipation while starting your first job? Or the simultaneous wonder and disorientation from moving to a new place, or perhaps entering a new life stage?
It’s often said that one of the only things that doesn’t change is change itself. Our lives are filled with transitions.
And it’s because of the consistency of change that it’s ever more important to consider how we can navigate them well.
From our own experience, both of us have recently moved to a new place, adjusting to new jobs, environments, culture, and mode of our relationship—adjusting from long-distance to short-distance. We’ve been going through a lot of transitions in the past few months, to say the least.
Not all transitions are as life-altering as moving to a different place. They can be as small as picking up more responsibilities at work, or adjusting to a new daily routine. Transitions simply mark the end of our former rituals and birth of new ones.
Nonetheless, transitions can often lead to a blend of conflicting emotions, sometimes leaving us wondering if we’re “doing it right,” or even questioning our decisions to take that job or relocate to that area.
But why does something that appears so easy to others—especially on social media—actually feel so hard in real life?
We tend to be impatient and want to be in control.
When we move to another place or into a new season of life, it’s natural to crave the stability and predictability we once had. Whether it’s certain routines, activities, or priorities, it’s natural to want to recreate the same things out of a desire for familiarity, despite being in a different context.
We forget this reality: that there are many elements in life we merely cannot control.
Today we live in an “instant” world, where the technologies we use and the access we have reinforces our expectations for things to happen quickly, and according to our custom preferences. Our society pervades the narrative that we are the masters of our fate—which may feel empowering at times, but also leads us to put undue pressure on ourselves to “get our lives together” by a certain age, or according to a certain timeline.
Frustration arises when we want specific things to happen at specific times, when in actuality, we are limited in our control over circumstances, timelines, and outcomes.
We think the grass is greener in our ideal future.
In our recent transition, our own ideals have been to perform well at our new jobs, build quality relationships quickly, get fully plugged into a local church, amongst other goals.
But it’s easy to feel discouraged when what we currently are experiencing doesn’t line up with all that we desire.
For instance, we’ve spoken with many fellow millennials and Gen Z-ers who think they must choose the “right” career path right at the start of their professional lives.
Although it is good to want a career that fits our passions and gifts, the mistake we can make is to overfocus on a better future, instead of seeing the beauty and value of where we currently are.
Transitions take time.
Waiting is a weakness for our generation. From wifi speeds to promotion tracks, there is an illusion that we are entitled to the fast track.
But when we look at the Bible, God often operates in years and generations.
David waited 7 years after being anointed to actually becoming crowned as king of Israel. Jesus waited 30 years before starting his public ministry and gathering his group of disciples. Noah worked on an ark for at least 55 years before he saw the rain God promised.
During the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15, God alluded to Jesus’ crucifixion: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his.” Thousands of years passed before Jesus came into the world to be crucified!
So what are some ways we can patiently navigate transitions?
- Know that it’s okay to struggle. Adjusting to new contexts naturally takes time, and we can’t expect them not to. When we catch ourselves feeling worried or anxious in our transitions, we can find comfort from God through His Word and through prayer: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). It’s okay not to be okay—God doesn’t expect us to be perfectly fine all the time, but rather to come to him with honest hearts, which includes our worries and struggles.
- Believe that God is working in ways you cannot see. We will never know exactly how our lives will pan out, but God’s promise to His people is this: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Our sovereign God is not anxious about the future nor in a hurry, because he knows it will all work out. After all, he’s the Creator of the Universe and is not even bound by the construct of time!
- Be patient with yourself. We need to be patient not only with our circumstances, but also with ourselves. A critical part of transition is adjusting to both our external situations, as well as going through internal transformations. And usually, neither happen overnight.
- Remember the bigger picture. Life is not about us. It’s about God and His eternal purposes. Contrary to what our world commonly tells us, our purpose on earth is far more important than our personal happiness or comfort. Through every transition, who we are becoming, what God is teaching us, and how we love the Lord and others have far greater significance than relieving our personal discomforts or pains.
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
We must focus our eyes on him and his goodness, regardless of our circumstances. Meditate on his Word. Do a relevant devotional plan on the Bible app. Spend quality alone time with God in prayer. Ask other believers in your life for prayer. Journal out your thoughts, the good and the not-so-good. Process them with a friend. Listen to worship music in the car, at work, while grocery shopping; train your mind to remember how big our loving God is in comparison to our trials and tribulations, and how faithful he always is in providing exactly what is best for us, in exactly the right way and time.
The difficulties of life exist to make us stronger.
Whether it was moving between schools, jobs, countries, or communities, we’ve learned that we can more easily appreciate and value transitions in hindsight, but it’s also helpful to recognize that, in the moment, it’s hard. And that’s normal.
And in fact, the fact that transitions can be difficult is not a curse, but a blessing.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).
God never promised us a pain-free life, but rather he promises that the pains we experience help to grow our faith and our character.
He promises that his all-powerful Spirit is inside of us who put our faith in him. He promises his unending love for us, no matter how “well” we are doing or feeling.
Take comfort in the fact that our struggles produce more strength in us, and that everything will work out for the best, not according to our limited human abilities, but rather according to God’s perfect plans for his beloved children.
Give it time, and give it to God.
This article is co-written by Alex Tran and Grace Chen.