We all experience change. It’s inevitable. It’s a word that brings mixed emotions. For some the word elicits the response of digging in our heels and screaming “no!” For others, it’s a challenge to look toward with joy and anticipation. Sadly, we oftentimes are so stuck on disliking change that we refuse to be obedient to God’s call. We miss out on His “great adventure” for us.
My family is well acquainted with change. In July 2006, we moved to Mexico to become missionaries. We were sent into a new country, with no language skills, leaving our family and friends behind. I’ll be frank; I do not like change. It’s easy when things stay the same. This wasn’t.
As we began a life full of difficult changes, we found some funny things along the way — learning experiences that make one better equipped. My husband and I walked into a bakery. When he asked the lady the cost of a baguette and she told him, he was quite stunned at the outrageous price. Our mindset was that she had raised it because we couldn’t speak Spanish well and were Americans. He asked her why it cost so much. The kind but confused lady shrugged as we left. As we proceeded on our journey (without a baguette), we began to talk through the conversation we had just had with her.
It finally occurred to us what she had really said. We realized her bakery had literally been cheaper than any we had been to previously, and we had understood her incorrectly. The baguette had been less than 10 cents. Ah, the sweet change of language.
We were reminded daily that we were in an unfamiliar culture as everything was quite different. During the holidays, we were thrilled to have been invited by friends to their family Christmas celebration. As we arrived after church, we began to see that Christmas Eve was the big celebration night, not Christmas Day. The Christmas feast of turkey and all of the fixings was set to take place at midnight followed by the opening of gifts, the hitting of the piñata, and making soup and tamales for the next day.
It was an all-night, no-sleep celebration! We made it as far as 1:30 a.m. but just barely. This way of celebrating was quite a change from how we had normally done Christmas, but it was fun making new memories.
The ironic thing about change is that you are forced to make one of two decisions: Will you make the best of where you are in your “new normal,” or will you curl up in a ball and fight the change kicking and screaming? I’ve done both. The first two years in Mexico, I constantly asked God how He could ever use me, the lady who couldn’t understand a Spanish sentence beyond that of a 3-year-old.
At one point, so much change came simultaneously that I wasn’t even sure I could keep my head above the water. My once-confident self-esteem plummeted. Finally, after much wrestling with God and myself, I made a decision. I would not let these changes paralyze me. I wasn’t an expert on how to maneuver through them, but I had to cling to the Bible and God’s promises to make it.
Change was nothing new for the Apostle Paul. When he wrote the book of Philippians (the book about joy), he was in prison. How could one who had gone through so much change pen these words? His focus was on the right person. In Philippians 1:27 Paul wrote, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
Recently, I read a quote by Charles Swindoll that the Detroit Tigers have painted at their stadium: “Life is 10 percent of what happens to me and 90 percent of how I react to it.”
Philippians 2:14 says very simply, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing.”
If anyone had grounds to complain about his change, it would have been Paul who sat day after day in a rat-infested, dirty prison with food that wasn’t even fit for animals. Don’t you think he wanted to complain just a little? Of course, he did, but he chose not to, for the sake of Christ. Oftentimes, I want to complain just a little … or a lot. Quite honestly, I’m pretty good at it, and I’ve had a lot of practice. But verses 15 and 16 go on to say, “So that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”
Paul was an example of having the right perspective on what was happening around him. At the end of his letter to the Philippians, Paul pens an amazing statement. In Philippians 4:12, he writes, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
What a challenge to us. Do we have the strength and courage to live lives of satisfaction wherever God has put us? Without Him, we will constantly be searching for the next thing that will seemingly lead us to peace. It is only when we keep our focus and trust on Christ and His purposes for our lives that we can, in the midst of change, have that peaceful contentment.
Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing. There will always be change in our lives; some changes will be easier to embrace and some changes will make us feel like our hearts are breaking. Change can be our greatest adventure. Change can grow us and give us depth. Embrace the adventure. Embrace the change!
Laurie L. Yost is the author of “Stumbling Along: One Woman’s Journey of Falling into Embarrassing and Hilarious Moments”. Visit laurieyost.com to learn more about her speaking engagements and writings.