I have been around long enough now to know that everyone doesn’t want to change. I know it may sound harsh and even unkind, but there are people who have a victim mentality that simply wants attention, and they think they get it by complaining.
So allow me to share what’s helped me over the last fifty or so years. They are principles I’ve gleaned from Scripture and my life experiences.
1. Look for God in the change.
Look for God in the change that you’re going through. Mother Teresa, when she was asked, why do you help the poorest of the poor? She said, “Because I see the face of Jesus in the poor, and I want to help him.” She was right but what I discovered is you can find the face of Jesus anywhere if you look close enough. Even in the worst situations. Even in something that God created, that’s been perverted. You can look and see the original intent; you can see the face of Jesus all around you. Jeremiah 29 says this in verse 13 “If you look for me in earnest, [God says] you will find me when you seek me.” Note the word “earnest.” “If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me.”
Do you know what our problem often is? When change comes, we look for everything else except the Lord. We look for a quick fix. We look for an easy solution. We look for a way out. We look for comfort. We look for relief. What you need to look for is the Lord. You need to look for God. When you’re in the middle of a problem, you don’t go; what’s the quick fix? How do I get out of this? How do I save my skin? How do I turn things around? That whole way is missing the point. You look for the Lord. Don’t seek comfort or convenience. Don’t seek relief. Seek the Lord, and you’ll get His solution, for sure His comfort, the strength, and all that you need. So what do you do... you look for God in the change.
2. Ask God for wisdom.
When you’re going through a change that you didn’t plan, you didn’t want, you don’t like, you say, Lord, what do you want me to do? My plan didn’t work out. It’s obviously not going the way I intended. So what do you want me to do? How do you want to redirect me? How do you want to correct me? How do you want to inspect me? How do you want to perfect me in this situation?
The reason you need to ask for wisdom is that in a change, your thinking has to change. Follow me on this: To do what you’ve never done, you’ve got to think like you’ve never thought. The old way of thinking, stinking thinking, won’t work. You’re in a new situation, a new time, a new relationship, new energy, a new development, a new commitment, and a new circumstance that you’ve never done. You’ve got to think in new ways. So you say, Lord, what do you want me to think?
James 1:5 says, “If you need wisdom, if you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he’ll gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking.” Jesus said you have not because you ask not. You need to stop and say, Lord, what do you want me to do in the situation?
3. Listen for God’s whisper.
You’ve got to be quiet because he’s not going to shout it to you. God speaks to those who take the time to listen. But you have to be quiet.
I have found this to be true at times in my life. There were times when it would seem so dark, and I lacked little understanding of what was going on. When I would sit quietly for a good period of time, I would eventually hear and see. Trust me when I say your brightest insights will often come during your darkest days if you humbly listen to God in quiet trust. If you’re listening to the TV, and you’re listening to the radio, and you’re listening to everybody else, you’re not going to get those insights. But your brightest insights will come in your darkest days if you say, God, what do you want me to do? And you remain quiet and listen.
A good example of this is in 1 Kings 19. It’s the story of Elijah. Elijah was up on the mountain, nursing his wounds, having a pity party, and hiding in a cave. And God needed to get his attention. It says in verse 11, “Then the Lord passed by and sent a furious wind that split the hills and shattered the rocks−but the Lord was not in the wind… Then there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After that, there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. But after the fire, there was a soft whisper of a voice. When Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his cloak, and he went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. [He knew this was God talking. Often this will be just an impression you have, but it is the voice of the Lord.] The voice said to him, ‘Elijah, what are you doing here?’”
Has God ever said that to you? What are you doing here? How did you ever end up here? I didn’t plan for you to end up here. I don’t want you here. Hanging out in a cave in the mountain, saying poor me. Everybody hates me. Nobody loves me. I’m going to go eat worms. Have a little pity party for yourself.
No. God speaks in the still, small voice. In a whisper. Think whisper. Think impression. You see, God talks to you in your own voice. That is why you think you are talking to yourself when you answer. Really you are responding to God. So what you need to do when you’re going through change is you need to slow down your mind. You need to slow down the RPMs. Go and sit in a quiet place and say, Lord, is there anything you want to say to me? You sit, and you just listen. You are quiet, and you let your mind slow down. You stop, and you just are quiet.
Don Henley of the Eagles used to sing a song called “Learn to be still.” We need to learn to be still. We need to get quiet. Look for God in the change, ask God for wisdom, and listen for God’s whisper.
4. Don’t ask why but what.
What do I need to learn? That’s the question you need to ask. Don’t ask why. That’s the question of explanation. Ask what? What do you want me to learn? That’s the question of education.
In fact, every situation is education. It’s an opportunity for you to grow. You’ll either grow better or you’ll grow bitter, depending on your response. You need to not focus on the circumstance; focus on your character. Don’t focus on the problem; focus on your personality. Don’t focus on what’s going on around you; focus on what God wants to do in you. That’s the difference.
Every time you go through a circumstance you didn’t choose, you didn’t like, you’re going through a change, you’re going to either resent it, or you’re going to grow from it. You’re either going to be a victim or a victor.
So please don’t ask why, but what. God doesn’t owe you an explanation for everything that happens in your life. In fact, you’re not going to get it. If you had an explanation for everything, you wouldn’t need any faith. You're never going to understand some things that happen in your life until you get to heaven.
5. Focus on what never changes.
Don’t focus on the situation; focus on what never changes. And what never changes? Three things. God’s love, God’s promises, God’s purpose. God’s love for you is never going to change. God’s promises in his Word are always true. God is not a liar. It’s never going to change. God’s purpose for your life is never going to change.
Jeremiah 31, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Psalm 33, “His plans endure forever. His purposes last eternally.” Isaiah 40, “The Word of God shall stand forever.” God’s love, God’s truth, and God’s purposes for my life are never going to change. That’s what you focus on when things are flying through the air.
6. Don’t face it alone.
Don’t face the change alone. Accept help from others. This is the exact opposite of human nature. Our tendency when we’re in pain is to pull into a shell. Our tendency when things aren’t going well in our lives we retreat in fear to our castle. We pull up the drawbridge, fill the mote, and release the alligators because I don’t want anybody to get near me. Big mistake. That’s not how you get through the change. And that’s not how you grow through the change. You need to tell certain trusted friends what’s happening in your life. You don’t have to tell everybody, but you need to tell a few close friends.
You say, “But I don’t want anybody else to know!” That’s your problem. There’s a word for that. It’s called pride. Ego. Arrogance. “I don’t want anybody else to know what I’m going through right now.” That’s arrogance. That’s pride. The Bible says, “God resists the proud.” You’re on the opposite side of God every time you get full of pride. But it says, “God gives grace to the humble.”
If you don’t have anybody that you’re sharing your entire life with, I pity you. That’s why you’re under so much stress. You’re bottling it all up inside of you. It’s why you’re tired all the time. It’s why you border on depression. It’s why you feel uptight and tense, and nervous. You’re keeping all that inside of you, and you’re not having anybody to share with. Ecclesiastes 4“Two are better off than one… If one of them falls down, the other can help him up… Two men can resist an attack that would defeat one man alone.”
7. Become a promise person.
Build your life on the promises of God. There are over seven thousand promises in the Bible. They’re there waiting to be claimed. They’re like blank checks where God says, “If you do this, I’ll do this… if you do this, I’ll do this…” you need to memorize them. You need to bank on them. You need to claim them.
I’ve been walking with the Lord now for almost fifty years. In those fifty years, I have become a promise person. I build my life on the promises of God. Not the way things seem but the way God says they will be. When you build your life on the promises, you can stand enormous levels of stress. Because you’re not looking at circumstances, you’re looking at the Word of God.
God did not bring you this far just to leave you where you are. He will see you through to the end of your life here and then beyond that.
Here’s the last step, and it’s the most important one of all. When I’m going through change, I don’t like…
8. I tell God I’ll trust him no matter what.
Even if it’s not the storybook ending, even if it doesn’t turn out the way I want, I’m going to trust God no matter what because God is a good God. He loves me. He made me. He knows what’s best for me. He created me. He has a plan for my life.
Friends, let me tell you about a great stress reliever. Let it go. Hold everything God gives you with an open hand. Anything you grab onto is either going to kill or stress you out.
If God has given you something in your life and you couldn’t give it up, you don’t own it; it owns you. With Job, learn how to say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!” Job 1:21