I’ve experienced a lot of transitions over the past five years.
I graduated from high school in Massachusetts and moved to New York City for college. I watched good friends graduate, move away, start careers, and even get married. I graduated myself in 2013 and left behind friends and family to intern in Madison, Wisconsin, with InterVarsity.
Now I’ve finished my internship and have moved to Chicago, where I write snatches of stories and wait to see what adventures will come next. And all my experiences with transitions have taught me two things:
First, transitions are a normal, inevitable part of life.
And second, they’re the worst.
Okay, maybe transitions aren’t literally the worst. But no matter how often I experience the change and uncertainty of a transition, they never seem to get any easier. My emotions easily bubble to the surface, and I can find myself teary-eyed from a sappy TV commercial or unduly irritated that my bus is late. The future feels impossibly uncertain, as if it literally stops when I walk across the graduation stage or step on the plane. And it’s hard to feel quite like myself as my routines and habits change.
Transitions often mean that something new and exciting is on the way—but there’s a stage in between the old and the new that is uncomfortable and precarious, like balancing on a high wire. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way.
But as much as I dislike transitions, I’ve also come to realize that they’re often very important for our spiritual growth. God can use those transitions to prepare us for the things he is calling us to, and to draw us closer to himself.
So how can we find joy and peace in the midst of change? And what aspects of transitions can help us grow in our relationship with God?
Who’s at the Center?
During times of transition—particularly when the transition involves large and sweeping change in many areas, like moving to a new city—we can more easily identify what brings us peace and security. Unfortunately, we often discover that our surroundings give us peace. Changes in the people we see every day, in the places we live and work, and in our daily routines can make us feel completely out of our depth and insecure.
Which means that, for many of us, transitions put us face to face with an uncomfortable fact: we don’t draw our security from God as much as we say we do.
We can respond to this realization in one of two ways. We could despair and beat ourselves up over the ways that we’ve failed to rely on God. I often find myself doing this, especially if I’m already on the emotional edge.
But there’s a second response: to run to God and increase our dependence on him then and there. When we do that, the acknowledgment of our failure to rely on God for peace becomes not an occasion for despair but an opportunity to increase our trust in him even more. God uses these moments to show us what it means for him to be at the center of our lives. When I’ve chosen to bring my fear and sadness about transitions to God, I’ve come out of them with a new intimacy with him.
What’s Really Good?
Transitions can also help us see what’s positive in our lives. For one thing, we often feel the most gratitude and appreciation for God’s blessings when they’re about to come to an end—graduation reminds us what we loved about college, for instance. When we reflect on a time that’s about to end, we can see more clearly the ways that God was present during that time.
The instability of transition can also give us a greater appreciation for small, everyday blessings. In the midst of big emotions and big reflections, things like a kind text from a friend, a sunny day, or a good meal stand out more. We need to reflect on the excellent things we’re leaving behind, but we should also be able to see the blessings, big or small, that are in front of us right now. And the in-between, uncertain times are often the best for helping us remember that God’s goodness is all around us, always.
Laying Down on the High Wire
But even when we approach transitions in an optimistic spirit, when we accept their inevitability, and when we look for God’s presence everywhere, negative emotions will still come. We’ll still be faced with insecurity and uncertainty. And that can make us feel as if we’re wobbling on a high wire, staring down at a dizzying drop.
The truth of the matter, though, is that even when we feel insecure and shaky, we serve a God who is in control, who offers us the ultimate security as his redeemed, beloved children. Even when our lives feel like high wires, we don’t have to wobble in place—we can lie down in peace, knowing that God sustains us. When we are filled with fear, when transitions become too much for us, we can rest assured that God is our firm foundation. And that, more than anything, will see us through to the other side.