The e-mail caught me by surprise when it landed in my inbox two months ago. A dear friend broke the news that she was moving 3000 miles away. To say it was a shock would be an understatement. We squeezed in time to meet once before she left to see her new house for the first time. A month later, she returned to California to take her son to college and say goodbye to friends. It was a fast transition with no lead up–I was nowhere near ready to say goodbye. I know we’ll both be processing this huge change for months to come. I miss her already, but I trust that God has good things in store for both of us.
It seems everywhere I turn I’m encountering people dealing with transitions right now. Some of them are just part of our life stages: families leaving beloved elementary schools as their children begin middle school and other families taking kids to college for the first time. There are parents adjusting to having an empty nest and young adults trying to figure out life after college. Some are watching their kids get married and start families of their own. Others are wrapping up careers and navigating the unknown waters of retirement; some are selling homes and moving on now that their kids are grown. While these events are emotional, they are also evidence of positive growth and change.
Other transitions are more difficult to accept: the shift into single life resulting from divorce or the transition from being married to being widowed. There is the unwelcome transition from having a job to searching for a new one. Or the struggle of watching a close-knit community unravel and wondering how to move ahead. These difficult transitions may be forced upon us, but we still have to learn how to live with them.
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t like times of transition. They are usually uncomfortable and awkward; often they are painful and difficult. But no matter what negative feelings I have about transitions, they are a part of life I’ve learned to accept and to entrust to God. When I’m still struggling to understand how to function as I transition from one thing to the next, I can trust that God already has a plan for me. I may not like the changes, but I can thank Him anyway and live expectantly knowing He has good things in store.
If you’re going through a transition, here are a few things that might help you navigate it and keep your focus in a healthy place:
-It’s OK to Grieve
Transitioning from one phase to the next means you have to leave something behind. It is healthy and normal to grieve the loss that the change is causing. If you’re trying to bottle up your negative emotions and put on a happy face, you’re going to struggle that much longer. Acknowledge your sadness to God and let yourself grieve for a while. Get help from a wise friend or counselor if you need it.
“Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62:8, NIV)
-It’s Not OK to Wallow
Sometimes we get stuck in a transition and can’t move on. It’s healthy to feel sad for a while, but not to make it a permanent habit of your mind. If we spend too much time lamenting painful changes in our lives over and over, it prevents us from looking ahead to see what God wants to do next. If you’re still living and breathing, then God still has plans for you. There is a time to move on.
“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13b-14, NIV)
-It’s Good to Move Forward
Like waves crashing on the beach, life is constantly moving and changing. We can try to dig our toes into the sand and refuse to accept change or we can frolic in the surf as it washes over us. Either way, we’re going to get wet. We can’t avoid being affected by what’s happening around us. You can trust God whether you know what life holds for you on the other side of your transition or not. Seek Him in the midst of your struggles and let Him lead you.
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’” (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV)