Life is full of transitions. Graduation, new jobs, marriage, babies born, or a move are exciting changes to anticipate. But changes like health issues and unexpected things that happen in our relationships, our lives, and the world are more difficult. Transitions can be both exciting and painful. We let go of something familiar, enter into the unknown, and often feel very disoriented.
When I moved from San Francisco to Hawaii, it was a disorienting time. My relationships, routines, and culture were completely different. When my dad had a stroke and died within a month of that, everyone in my family had to adjust. Then and at other times, I’ve felt the transition of new church, new household, new job responsibilities and new leadership.
This past December, my mom had an unexpected health challenge and had difficulty walking. When I arrived in San Francisco from Hawaii, I took her to the ER and she was admitted to the hospital. It wasn’t a convenient time. I was planning to visit friends and celebrate Christmas on my way to InterVarsity’s Urbana Student Missions Conference and then host 20 students and staff from Hawaii in San Francisco. If my mom had to have a health problem, why didn’t God allow it to happen after these events?
The hardest thing about my mom’s declining health was not knowing what would happen. Should we get a caregiver or send her to a care home? Is she dying? When will I go back to my home in Hawaii?
We all go through countless transitions and challenges. When this happens, life often feels out of control. It’s easy to get frustrated, fearful or anxious when we don’t know what to do.
How do we walk through changes and transitions with God? What might he want to say and do in our lives?
I’m reminded of how, after being in Egypt for 400 years, God’s people left for the promised land. A journey that was to take days took four decades. That is a really long transition. Here are some things we can learn about changes and transitions from this story.
Trust God Instead of Complaining
When we enter the unknown and unfamiliar, it’s easier to grumble and complain than to trust God. We may look to the past and wish we could go back, even if it wasn’t that great. It’s also a temptation to blame others.
God allowed the Israelites to be in a desert where they had to completely depend on God to survive. But their unmet passions, unfulfilled appetites, and fears controlled them. They grumbled about not having food or water. They grumbled about their enemies. They questioned God’s character and forgot his provisions.
Transitions and change can be a special time to choose to focus on God and depend on him. Moses also grumbled and complained, but he tried to have an honest dialogue with God. He was open to God to speak into his situation and tell him something that he didn’t already know. This is one of the many reasons God describes Moses in Numbers 12 as a faithful servant that God speaks face to face with.
In the Psalms, we also see many people speaking honestly with God and see God speak back to reveal who he is. Instead of complaining, God calls us to praise and thank him and to be filled with his love.
Through my many transitions, I have struggled to be honest with God, but he keeps surprising me with his comforting and strong presence that guides me through those times.
If you are going through transition, be honest with God about your losses and fears. Ask him for help. Include God in your process, praise and thank him, and you will be amazed by his presence.
Believe in God’s Provision
In Exodus 16:11-14 the Lord says to Moses:
“I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘at twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God. That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost appeared on the desert floor.”
Throughout the 40 years in the wilderness, God consistently provided. He provided bread, meat, and water daily. God also wants to provide for us and calls us to depend on him daily.
When I stayed longer in San Francisco to be my mom’s caregiver, I saw God provide every day the things that we needed. Meanwhile, when I along with two other senior InterVarsity staff in Hawaii missed leading our annual Holy Spirit retreat, God provided while we were away and one of our student leaders said it was the best one ever. This showed that God’s provision is not dependent on specific people, and he will provide any way that he wants. In his perfect timing, he also provided the right caregiver for my mom and I was able to go back to Hawaii.
During a transition, don’t think that having everything settled is the only way God will provide. He calls us to focus on his daily provision and the ways he wants to provide for us that are unique.
During my dad’s last month of life, I kept a journal so that I could write daily andremember all the ways that God provided for us through this challenging time.
Ask God for eyes to see what he is doing. It might look different than we picture. Live in the present, thank God and worship him. Ask him to show you how he is providing.
Look to Community for Support
In Exodus 17:7-16, the Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites. During the battle, Moses went up to the top of the hill holding up the staff of God and prayed for them as they were in the battle. Whenever he had his hands up, the Israelites were winning. But Moses got tired, and so Aaron and Hur helped hold up his hands.
In times of transition and change, we need to surround ourselves with a community who will stand with us and pray with us. When we feel too weak, community can pray with faith and help sustain us. Much like the Israelites, we fight our spiritual battles in community. Together we are reminded that it is God who wins our battles and gives us victory.
When I’ve gone through health challenges with my parents, I’ve been so encouraged by those who prayed with and for us. They were great reminders of God’s presence.
Take Time to Reflect with God
Are you complaining or having an honest dialogue with God? Share with him your struggles, losses, and what you need. Talk to him about your fears and insecurities.
What is the Holy Spirit saying to you? Ask him to reveal lies you are believing. Ask him to show you how he wants to provide for you. Thank him for the ways that he has been present and providing. Are there people you can invite to pray with you?
In transitions, God wants to shower his blessing on us, but we sometimes use an umbrella to block his showers of blessings.
As you engage with God, pay attention to what he wants to say to you and what he wants to do. Let God be present with you. Let him provide for you.
Brenda has spent over 41 years leading, discipling, and developing InterVarsity students and staff in San Francisco and Hawai`i. You can support her ministry at https://donate.intervarsity.org/donate#17.