To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens: a time to be born, and a time to die . . . a time to break down, and a time to build up . . . a time to mourn, and a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4, KJV)The older we get, the less easily we seem to adapt to change. Yet change is a relentless and constant force in life — whether it's change we choose or change because of death, divorce, a health crisis or financial disaster. "Change is good" goes a popular adage. One can debate its accuracy, but in the Christian worldview all change is ultimately for the good:
"All things work together for the good of those who love Christ." (Romans 8:28)
But change involves endings — the end of seasons we love as well as those difficult seasons we've simply had to endure. In midlife, some of the changes we may have to face include watching a once-vital parent grow feeble and childlike. Or sending our youngest child off to college. It may mean the death of a spouse, or moving from the big house we reared our family in to smaller digs sans flights of stairs — a concession to the changes taking place in our own aging bodies.
Another saying goes, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Indeed, change can feel like death. Familiar routines and surroundings provide at least the illusion of constancy and permanence in an ever-changing world. When a particular season in your life ends and a new one begins, understand that there will be a period of mourning for what "was." Suddenly, even misery looks good, for no other reason than it's familiar. Your mind may play tricks on you; the season past may look like it's not over yet. Memories of what you've left behind take on a rosy, idealized hue. You forget why a particular season ended in the first place. Realize that this is a natural phase in the grief process; it's called "denial."
Maureen Burns, author of the book Run With Your Dreams and Forgiveness — A Gift You Give Yourself offers four suggestions for dealing successfully with change:
Give Yourself Credit. When faced with impending change, remind yourself of previous crises you've handled successfully. You may think you don't have the strength to deal with it, but you do. Tie a knot and hang on.
Supportive People. Surround yourself with positive people who believe in you. Avoid those who bring you down with negative thinking.
Get Adequate Sleep and Exercise.These help balance out the inevitable stress that comes with change.
Pray. Take your fears, hurt and questions to Jesus. Ask Him for the strength to release the past and for a positive attitude to envision a bright future. Find solace and comfort in God's Word. Psalms is a great place to start.
Eventually, it will get easier. The last phase in the grief process is acceptance. When circumstances demand that you leave behind an old season for a new one, it may be hard to imagine you'll ever feel "grounded" again. But you will. As hard as change is, it's also an opportunity to grow — in relationships, in self-confidence and in your faith, allowing God to uphold you when you're own strength isn't enough.
Ultimately, we choose how we'll handle change — with resistance and negativity or with grace and hope. Attitude is key. When big changes come — and they will — arm yourself with the Truth that you can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens you. Including weathering change.