On Transitions (Part II)

In the previous post, I shared some thoughts with you about why we should engage during times of transition.  Throughout this post, I’ll share about how we can weather these times of transition well, even coming out smiling and thankful on the other side!  This post will explore these survival techniques:

IMG_73601. Make sure people are praying for you.

2. Consider what the Lord might be teaching you.

3. Join a church as quickly as possible and dive in.

4. Remember, it takes time!

Before getting into that list, let me issue a warning reminder:

There is an enemy who would LOVE to see a transition undo you!

Just as Jesus knows what transition is like and will be our rock as we go through periods of change, the devil knows too and will attempt to deceive and derail us.  He loves to take advantage of weak moments to try to lure us away from trusting our gracious, heavenly Father.  The Bible says he prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour, that he’s the father of lies, masquerades as an angel of light, and leads the whole world astray.  I remind you that there is an enemy not to scare you, but to embolden you in the face of trials that will come in the midst of transition.  They are not usually signs that you’re in the wrong place; in fact, often it’s quite the opposite.  The evil one would use trials to derail your faith and lead you astray, but knowing that’s a real threat  will help you to endure.  When I read about Satan, I get all fired up, and want to stick it to him, not letting him have a foothold.  Will you join me?

Here are some things that will help you to resist the devil and thrive in the midst of transition:

Make sure people are praying for you.  This is not a platitude.  I credit much of my continuing walk with the Lord to the prayers of my grandmother, parents, and in-laws.  Before moving onto something new in life, ask those who know you to commit to praying for you.  And if your life transition has lead to physically moving cities or churches, be as real as possible with your new community, so they too can pray you through it.

Consider what the Lord might be teaching you.  When we ask God to soften our hearts and help us to trust Him, He will.  I can have a pretty hard heart (hard head, too!), so it sometimes takes a while; but if God can break through my pride, fear, doubt, and sin, well, I have hope He will do the same for you!  Open up your eyes to see places God is being gracious to you, providing for you, nurturing you, and pruning you in the midst of your current situation.  You’ll begin to see His hand in new ways, finding fuel for deeper trust in Him and greater thanksgiving to Him.

Join a church as soon as you can.  That doesn’t mean you have to rush hastily without knowing about the doctrines and practices of a congregation.  It does mean, don’t dilly-dally.  As I mentioned in the previous post, the church is the people; you need them and they need you.  The perfect congregation does not exist.  If you find a place where the gospel is preached and the people there are concerned for the things of God, stick around even if the worship style isn’t quite what you’d prefer or the time of the service is not optimal.  The sooner you commit, the sooner you can invest and others can invest in you.  Being new is just plain awkward.  But you know that old phrase: If you want to have a friend, you’ve got to be a friend?  It’s a good thing to keep in mind as you step into new church and new friendship waters.  Act like the church is yours, and soon it will be!

IMG_7501Remember, it takes time!!  We have now lived in Pittsburgh for two years, and despite the fact that I grew up here, the transition has been hard.  Going from eight years in Cambridge, MA, feeling known, understood, and comfortable in my roles, to being new, unknown, and floundering, was tough.  I’ve had many “middle school moments”: Do they really like me, or are they being nice just because they have to?  Will I ever fit in here?  I’ll bet if they really get to know me, they’ll hightail it outta this friendship!  Of course, most of those thoughts were absurd, but they were real nonetheless.  Two years in, however, I’m feeling much more comfortable and my main advice to anyone heading to a new place is to remember that it takes time.  Our “old friends” are what they are because we have a shared history together.  New friends will become old friends over time, too!  So if you’re feeling lonely, insecure, unsettled, or restless in the middle of a transition, remember it takes time.

As with the previous post, I’ll bet some of you fine readers have wise counsel to add to this list.  Or maybe you have a question regarding one of these points.  Please feel free to leave a note in the comments.  I’d love to hear what you have to say!

I don’t know where you are today: on your way to graduate school, moving into a new place, staring a new job, or maybe you’ve been somewhere for a little while but don’t feel settled yet.  I’d like to leave you with these verses, not as a command, but as in invitation to trust God in times of transition, leaving the details to Him:

Be joyful always; pray continually; and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Other posts in the series:

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While Heather would not likely use the word scholar to describe herself, she has always been surrounded by them. Raised by an academic father and then marrying an academic, she has been connected to several university communities throughout her lifetime. During her undergraduate days at Carnegie Mellon University, she was involved with InterVarsity, serving in many capacities, including one year as chapter President. After completing a degree in Spanish, she taught high school for a couple of years and spent a short time as a Volunteer Staff with InterVarsity at MIT. Currently she resides in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband, Colin, and their three children, Elizabeth (8), Brian (4), and Katherine (6 mo.). Most of her time is spent caring for the family and homeschooling, but in her free time she writes at Life in the Valley and dreams of one day being a speaker/Bible teacher for women.

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  • drandrewwalsh@gmail.com'
    Andy Walsh commented on September 5, 2012 Reply

    I think that it is important to be mindful of seasons of life as a complement to reflecting on transitions. Some of the difficulties and discouragement we associate with transitions stem from feeling that things are not as they used to be. And sometimes, that’s because they’re not supposed to be! Being a college student is different from being a parent of young children is different from being an empty nester. Making a successful transition includes adjusting expectations to the current season.

    • heatherashe@gmail.com'
      Heather commented on September 6, 2012 Reply

      That is an excellent thought, Andy! I find that even day-to-day when life is “normal” I have to adjust my expectations and choose contentment fairly regularly, lest I turn into a big ball of complaints. Thank you for adding such wisdom to the conversation.

      • drandrewwalsh@gmail.com'
        Andy Walsh commented on September 6, 2012 Reply

        The notion of “normal” in quotes suggests a further question – is life largely static punctuated by the occasional transition, or is life a constant series of transitions?

  • heatherashe@gmail.com'
    Heather commented on September 7, 2012 Reply

    A good question, Andy. I suppose my quotes address the fact that often my idea of what a normal day should look like is derailed by what life actually IS like. I think life is punctuated by transitional experiences or big changes (moving, having babies, going to college/grad school, kids starting school, and other things as we get older.) But then there’s the process of sanctification going on within us, where we are continually being changed and renewed because the Spirit is alive in us. I’m no philosopher nor theologian (you know that!) so I don’t know if there is a better way to make a distinction or at least big fancy words to sue, or if, as you suggest life is just a constant series of transitions. Thoughts?

    • drandrewwalsh@gmail.com'
      Andy Walsh commented on September 9, 2012 Reply

      Actually, Heather, I know you to be both a philosopher (lover of wisdom) and theologian (one who studies God), at least in the most literal sense!

      I can see where you were talking about a difference between what you expect in any given day and how that day actually plays out. And I suppose that doesn’t really qualify as a transition. And certainly you are right to note that large transitions are generally few and far between in any one life. (And praise God for that particular bit of mercy!)

      I think what I was really wondering is whether the difference between such significant events (moving/job change/etc.) and every day life is one of kind (transitions vs “normal”) or one of degree (big transitions vs little transitions). And I’m not really driving at either answer, but just musing on the topic. You mention sanctification, which is interesting. That brings to mind the notion that every day should bring some sort of transition away from our old self and towards Christ. And perhaps sometimes that sanctification process is prodded along by the need to readjust expectations when a normal day goes so very differently than originally thought!

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