One year ago, our family began the most difficult transitional challenge of our lives. God called us away from comfort and security, and into a journey of seeing a hurting church revitalized by His grace. We were terrified. In many ways, we still are. But a nearly a year into it, God’s grace has sustained us and taken us on a journey we would not trade for anything. God has been glorified at EBC, and He is moving in people’s hearts and lives. That makes the journey worth every step.
Yet, the transition has been pretty tough at times—planting new roots, developing new relationships, learning a new culture. The risk related to the transition seemed unthinkable. All of my missionary friends would think I’m a true WIMP! And they are right. I have a new EPIC respect for missionaries who give their lives in service on foreign soil, and for all the related sacrifices and adjustments they make. My adjustment, by comparison, has been a cakewalk for sure.
But for our family, the “cakewalk” was tough—and at times still is. Here are the things God has used to sustain and strengthen us through a God-ordained family transition. Here are my suggestions if you are about to tackle a tough transition:
Be assured that God is calling—Absolutely nothing can beat the knowledge that you are exactly where God placed you. His leading makes every challenge endurable. Knowing this is a part of His big picture is the largest part of surviving and having hope. He is able to make His leading undeniable if you ask. I wrote about that here!
Be alone with God—The presence of God changes everything! And sometimes, there’s really no place else to go. Be ok with being alone with God, and get alone with Him often. Providential transitions bring a sacred loneliness into your life. These are times when your dependence on people lessens and your dependence upon God strengthens.
Be immersed in scripture—God’s Word speaks into every emotion and circumstance of our lives. It gives us a truthful reference point—accurate perspective. Transitions leaving us feeling as though we are lost in fog. God’s Word provides the landmarks and anchor points to stabilize the journey.
Be deliberate about your input—scripture, music, books, and other influences can all be used to properly direct your heart during seasons of disorientation and displacement. Stay connected to things that continually realign you with truth.
Be understanding with your emotions—in a word: unpredictable! Transitions play with emotions like a cat plays with a ball of yarn. Just expect it, hold on to what you know is true, and endure until God stabilizes you. And expect those unpredictable emotions to impact your closest relationships—which calls for a HUGE dose of patience going both ways in those relationships.
Be discerning with your emotions—remind yourself often that “how you feel” is probably just your feelings and not reality. If you start listening to your unsettled emotions, there’s no telling what bad decisions you may make. On good days, enjoy the positive emotions. On low days, go get some coffee with someone who can strengthen your heart! Or better yet, get alone with God or your spouse!
Be engaged with your loved ones—You need them, they need you! It’s that simple. Often transitions cause families to batter each other rather than bolster each other. Lean on each other. Spend time together. Listen to each other. Comfort each other. Remind each other of all that God has done! Make the transition a “together adventure” and keep looking at the positive aspects. You might even make a list of all the blessings the transition brings!
Be transparent with prayer supporters—Don’t be fearful to be transparent. I’m not sure why we try to pretend we have it all together. Sometimes the best thing I can do is sit down with a friend and just shoot straight. I almost always find “I’m normal.” And then the wisdom of a friend ministers directly to the need.
Be encouraged by friends—Select a team of wise, unbiased friends and counselors who will pray with you and advise you. Put them on your cell-phone favorites list. When the transition gets overwhelming, eat chocolate, drink Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, and call someone on your list. All of that after you talk with God!
Be patient with yourself and others—time, time, and more time. Transitions take time. I was in a hurry. I shouldn’t have been. There’s no way to speed this up. One day at a time, God leads you along. Week by week, month by month, He meets your needs, holds you together, and sustains you through it all. The passing of time will make a big difference for you and all those involved. New roots just take time.
Be hopeful towards the future—looking back for too long never does anybody any good. Memories are fine. Past victories can be cherished. But looking back for too long just means you’re going to knock your head on something while you’re trying to move forward. Thank God for yesterday. But anticipate tomorrow! Look forward, press forward, and chase God’s next adventure for your life. Tough? Yes—if you are looking back. Turn around and face forward… then give it all you’ve got!
This post has been in the works for a few months. As I finish it, we just had a church family picnic yesterday at EBC. It’s been 50 weeks since we arrived in Newington, and today was just precious! I took a moment at today’s picnic and just looked around. Here’s what I saw:
New Christians fellowshipping with mature Christians.
New members being welcomed by long-time members.
Church family laughing, rejoicing, and enjoying their fellowship.
A young singles group thriving with energy that didn’t exist 11 months ago.
A host of young families, teenagers, and children who weren’t a part of EBC 11 months ago.
Guests being discipled and welcomed into the family.
Games being played by a recently very discouraged church body.
Testimonies of growth, life, health, and answered prayer.
I stood there in the middle of it, looked at my wife, and said, “This is just a dream come true! How cool!!” She smiled and agreed! All around us was a thriving, healthy church family enjoying their Christian lives and friendships on a whole new level.
Honestly—the transition has been really tough. But the fruit of the transition makes it absolutely WORTH IT!
God speed in your transition! Soon enough the fruit will come!