Changing times

Changing Times

Spring has sprung! Elinor Magowan reflects on the assurances we’re given by God when we experience changing seasons in our own lives.

The magnolia tree in our garden is in full bloom. It reminds me of my grandmother who is now in glory. She had a huge magnolia tree in the small garden of her terraced house. As a little girl, I used to love visiting at Easter and seeing the beautiful flowers on that tree.

I love Spring. I love seeing snowdrops in fields and blossom on trees. I love hearing birds sing and feeling the warm sunshine on my face – even as I walk along the busy, congested main road to do my shopping.

Spring makes me smile as I look forward to the longer, warmer days that Summer will bring. But Spring’s arrival reminds me that we have no control over the changing seasons. The same is true of some changes that come into our lives. Change is inevitable – it’s part of life.

Some change is beneficial; some is difficult and painful. Change can be an opportunity or a challenge – something to be concerned about or enjoyed. We experience change ourselves, and we see others go through change.

Prepared

Sometimes, change can be prepared for and managed, such as when we get married, move house or change job. Other changes come upon us unexpectantly and are unwelcome, for example a sudden bereavement or other traumatic experience. We never know what change a day may bring (Proverbs 27:1).

As Christians, we have all experienced the most glorious change: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

We are also being progressively changed: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Or, as Charles Wesley expresses it in his hymn, Love Divine All Loves Excelling, we are “changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place.”

Renewed

It’s the Holy Spirit who is actively promoting change in us as we rid ourselves of sins that characterise our fallen nature and consciously put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of our creator (Colossians 3:5-10).

God also uses changes in our circumstances to work in us for his greater glory and to make us more like Christ, our Saviour.

So, how do we co-operate with God’s work in us as we go through times of change? Here is some practical and spiritual advice, underpinned by Biblical truth.

Practical Steps

1. Prepare for any expected change

Discern what you are concerned about, and acquire knowledge through reading and research. We do this when we travel to another country, finding out about the culture, learning something of the language, and thinking through how we might be affected by culture shock. Mothers do this when they are expecting a baby. We encourage engaged couples to do some marriage preparation.

2. Journey with someone else

Friendship and companionship are so important! I recall with thankfulness those who have reached out to me and walked alongside me as I’ve gone through changes – those who took the time to ask “How’s it going?”. I’m grateful for those who assure me of their prayers, those who prove the constancy of friendship and are committed to speaking truth and providing encouragement from God’s word. I appreciate those who have shown practical kindness. But don’t wait for others to approach you! Seek out friendship – ask someone to meet with you to pray and study God’s word.

3. Be honest with yourself, with others and with the Lord

It can be helpful to record the ups and downs you are going through. It can bring clarity to get those thoughts out of your mind and heart, and onto paper. Turn your thoughts and feelings into prayers. Also, look back and remember and record God’s faithfulness.

4. Create structures to support your life until change passes

Keep up routines – even taking the children to school every day and picking them up can be beneficial. Don’t neglect the importance of Sundays; get up at the usual time. Young adults can benefit from keeping regular hours when they have moved away from home.

5. Understand how you react to stressful situations, and where your weak points are

Eat well and find good coping mechanisms – not unhealthy/sinful ones. I find that regular walks help me by allowing me time to think, process and pray. Being creative is beneficial, so make time for hobbies.

6. Recognise that change is a phase that will pass

Be patient. Adjusting to a new situation takes time.

7. It’s normal to feel tired, tearful and insecure

You are not odd! Change is emotional for men as well as for women and children. Other people understand, and God knows your weakness and is with you.

Spiritual help

1. Prioritise reading God’s word

It’s easy when our circumstances change, even by just going on holiday, not to maintain a normal pattern of reading the Bible. I find that if I neglect personal scripture reading, then my own heart and the new circumstances I am in speak to me louder than God’s truth.

God’s word gives us firm places for our feet to stand when we feel that life is changing. There are many Bible verses that speak to us of God’s unchanging character and his very great and precious promises. Here is a selection:

“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)

“I the Lord do not change.” (Malachi 3:6)

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.” (Deuteronomy 7:9)

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

I once read in a devotional: “When you have hundreds of prayers that necessitate hundreds of different answers, know and feel that God is near.” “But as for me it is good to be near God, I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of your works.” (Psalm 73:28)

2. Live by faith with an eye on the future

The Bible describes our earthly life as one of pilgrimage. Psalm 84 tells us of the blessings of pilgrimage: “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion” (Psalm 84:5-7).

On our journey through life, God’s word assures us that there will be refreshment in the dry valley. Autumn rains will come and God will make the place of sadness a place of blessing. Even in the desert, God has purposes for us.

We live by faith until we die, just like the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.” (Hebrews 11:13)

As we experience change, it reminds us that life on earth is temporary and transitory and forces us to focus on eternal realities. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

3. Pray to the one who knows and cares

The work of Jesus enables us to bring our cares and concerns to God in prayer, and to seek God’s grace to help us in our need: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

It is encouraging to know that Jesus understands and sympathises with our weakness, even as we struggle to adapt to change in our own lives. Jesus himself experienced much change. He came from the perfection of heaven and experienced the pain and suffering of life on earth to be our Saviour – the much-loved Son of God became the rejected man of sorrows.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8).

Jesus is now risen and ascended and is seated at the right hand of God the Father. He has been exalted to the highest place, and one day we will be with him – safe, secure, and forever in his presence.

At the beginning of this piece, I said that a magnolia tree in bloom reminded me of visiting my grandmother at Easter when I was a young girl. When I think of all the changes that I have known in life since those days, I rejoice that God is unchanging and constant; that his word is trustworthy; that the Holy Spirit is my helper, and that I can look forward to the future and being forever in the presence of my Saviour.

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