Sometimes I am taken back to that day in Cincinnati that changed my life forever. There I was, four-and-a-half hours away from home when I got the call saying that my 43-year-old father had been diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer. There is so much to say about that next two years before he died, but I thought I’d share just two major concepts that have meant so much to me and helped me to accept that great change in my life, at least somewhat gracefully.
Sometimes the hardest part of accepting change in our lives is letting go of our own expectations. We create this image in our mind of what our life, our marriage or our family should look like, and when something interrupts that, we tend to panic.
1. Graciously accepting change requires complete submission to God’s plan
Are we truly submitted to God? What does that actually look like? My dad used to say, “We must believe that God is both willing and able to bring about the perfect outcome in our lives.” Do you really believe that? I think if we really believed He was both willing and able to bring about the perfect outcome we would feel great peace in the midst of change.
There were times I remember praying and pleading with God and saying: "Take anyone but him! Anyone else, God, and I can make it through—just not him." And I don’t say that to mean that I had no one else I cared about in my life; but he was my rock. My best friend, my dad, my counselor, and the one who made me laugh. So I would ask God to take anyone else but him. I’m asking you today: What is that one change that could happen in your life that you would pray that prayer for? What would you plead with God to not take from your life? What if you lost your husband, or your home? What if you had a miscarriage? What if you got sick?
At some point we have to figure out what is most dear to us and be able to say to God, "I’m with You no matter what." Now I look back and can see that is why, for me, it had to be him. God is supposed to be my Rock. And while it is still hard and a little blurry, I can sort through the rubble and begin to see why God allowed that loss to occur in my life. But to be able to see through that pain and confusion, we have to believe. We have to be completely, utterly, unabashedly submitted to Him. We have to believe that He is working everything out exactly as it should be. When I feel overwhelmed or like nothing is playing out like it should be I turn to Psalm 139:
"O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thoughts afar off. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me" (Psalm 139:1-10, emphasis added throughout).
So you see, no matter where you find yourself, no matter what changes come, He is right there with you. There is nowhere you can go and be unable to find Him beside you.
2. Graciously accepting change requires us to seek God in those moments of extremely difficult change
It is when everything that you need is taken away that you realize God is everything you need. The two years of sickness I experienced with my dad were the most physically draining yet spiritually filling of my life. I’ve heard it said that prosperity drives us away from God, but desperation drives us to our knees. This was so true for me. I was so desperate that I prayed and cried and sang to God. All the time: in the shower, in bed, in my car, when I was walking to class, as I sipped coffee. And I began to relate to God in a way I never knew was possible. I began to know Him, and He knew me, from the inside out.
When you are going through difficult change in your life I would encourage you to befriend the Psalms. Start with the first one, and join David as he pours his heart out to His Father in heaven. When you have a minute, read Psalm 69. David is crying out to God when he was alone in the desert, as he was hiding from men constantly trying to take his life. There he was alone, hungry, confused and apparently forsaken. But I’ve heard it said that that was the making of that man. It is in the darkness that we can most easily see the light. Don’t miss that. I think sometimes amidst the scramble to get out of uncomfortable situations that we do miss that. So in those moments, take a deep breath and let the panic wash through you. It is in those moments of change and growth and stretching that we can convene most intimately with Him.
And here’s the bottom line for us as Christians: It has to be about more than seeking relief. It has to be about seeking God. Even in the dark places. Especially in the dark places. The story of Job is illuminating. After he has lost his family, his home, his cattle, his wealth, his health, his legacy, he said, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You” (Job 42:5).
So let’s use those times of change in our lives as powerful opportunities to more fully submit and more fervently seek our God.