"I am the LORD, I do not change."
Malachi 3:6 NKJV
The old saying goes that change is the only constant we can count on, and while that’s not completely true, it's a constant we often fear. Because change usually means we can't count on everything we used to know, it not so gently kicks us out of any comfort zone we may have managed to create, right off the scaffolding we were so carefully navigating. And that can be scary to the point of panic.
Change means we have to adapt to new situations, often new people and new circumstances, with perhaps little warning or preparation. An unwelcome change in relationship, family, work, school, schedule or surroundings can rip out all the security and joy we felt and stop our building. The ladder staggers and the tools wriggle free from our hands as we try to get a grip on the new worksite. Sure, we have to give ourselves time to take hold of the changes we face, but our lives—our temples—suffer when these changes and our fearful responses to them paralyze us.
We see panic and loss, stress and confusion. God sees opportunity, a new page of blueprints.
I know what you're thinking, and I can agree -- it's often hard to see opportunity for anything good in a change, but it helps when we break the stealth-cloaked opportunity down into two areas -- changes within ourselves and the changes outside us -- you could call it the design behind the project and the building that others see and feel. And yes, there's joy and new blessings there waiting to be discovered amid the immediate rubble from our ladder quaking.
Every change demands action and reaction from us. To regain a little control and peace and focus, we can take the opportunity to change ourselves to better reflect God in all we do - even in response to a perhaps unwanted turn of events, because His grace that makes it all possible is not on backorder by any new developments we can't control. And what we'll learn is that positive change in ourselves -- a little self-improvement project behind the scenes, if you will -- follows because it's never too late to become a more wise, understanding and effective builder.
Some family changes in the past have allowed me [I could say forced but I won't :)] to change my behavior toward others and the situations I faced, and I have to admit that while the changes weren't easy, they were welcome, maybe by me more than anyone else, because it made it easier for me to live with me [and that's a challenge in the best of times for us control-freaky people]. Yes, the learning curve is steep in this kind of effort, but the resulting progress on your temple will be worth it.
Hopefully some of my changes in response to change will help you [and please share what you've learned as well]:
- I changed and learned to pause before offering my opinion, wanted or not, before I could blink. Usually in a period of change and uncertainty, one thing not in short supply is opinions--and loud, pushy ones at that. Learning to hold my tongue til it bled -- sometimes for a while, sometimes saying nothing at all -- is a change in myself I've come to appreciate and value because we rarely help anything by spouting off like a boiling tea-kettle [not that I was prone to do that or anything, I'm just saying . . .].
- I changed and learned to wait before making decisions until I've gathered all the information. Sky-diving to conclusions is a luxury a lot of change won't allow -- and you may be like me and decide that's a good thing. Information is power, and that power is the ability to build in the right direction and not have to tear down what you've already done because it's off center based on something you didn't know or think through carefully.
- I changed and learned to reaffirm the good before addressing the bad. This task gets lots of practice during a difficult change. Cultivate the habit of remembering what's right and noble and true and delighting in that to strengthen you for dealing with those things that aren't. It's hard training in the midst of anger, sadness, disappointment, confusion or anything else that comes with change, but it's great stability for a shaky ladder.
- I changed and learned to let go. We often resist change because it takes some power or control away from us, but guess what? When I couldn't do anything about a lot of things changing around me, I learned that I didn't have to -- and I realized that I could extend that "privilege" to other areas and decide if I really had to respond at all to all the developments around me. Sometimes, I could just step back without the world falling apart -- imagine that. Having to let go helped me learn to let go and be ok about it. This change in behavior may take you a while to master too, as it has me, but it's a revelation and liberation you'll probably appreciate the more you practice it.
Even though we may not be able to change the changes that frighten us, we can make some changes of our own, on the outside, that help in dealing with them:
- Change your schedule to make whatever's required of you easier -- let chores or other responsibilities go or allow yourself more time for projects. The point is to realize new limitations and don't put any more stress on yourself than the situation demands. With a narrower focus, you'll be less overwhelmed and afraid.
- Set or reset boundaries. Big changes in our lives can leave us vulnerable -- one thing we don't need is others, those involved in the change or not, intruding on the building we're trying to salvage under the difficult circumstances. We can't let others take advantage of our blind side while we're down, sabotage our work or put up roadblocks in our way. Choose to protect yourself.
- Along with that last point, minimize contact with people who stress you as much as you can. I know that may be hard to do, but realize the choices you have and make the best ones to help continue your building. Spend time with people who will build with you and steer clear of the rest.
- Keep good records. Stress and new responsibilities make a mess of our memories, so good documentation will put your mind at ease so that you can focus on building, not on trying to remember [or argue about with others] what someone said or what day something happened.
All of these points are meant to help you respond in an active, grace-guided way to the fear you feel. God is about continuing to build despite the storms around us. And when we're armed with a prayer every breath and a strategy for building instead of a scary burden of anxiety, we can face the change coming our way and deal with it with a loaded toolbelt instead of hiding from it under a tarp. Through any change, we can build as we go and keep our focus on the joy God will restore to us as we keep swinging that hammer, trusting God to never change.
Please think about these questions and if you will, respond for our other builders here:
-What change are you facing now? What has your response been – to fear or to build?
-How have you overcome a fear of change in the past, or what have you learned from your fear in the past that helps you now when change happens?
-Why do you think we fear change so, and how do you think God wants us to respond to it in our lives?
REMEMBER: Nothing surprises God and He already knows everything you need to deal with the changes in your life. Help Him -- grab a hammer.
Overcome the fear of change and build with JOY -- God's waiting, blueprints in hand. No matter what the change, God is beside us, and our temples remain. Trusting Him and trusting that makes us unafraid.
Read below or download the study of Ruth for yourself or your group.