Bouncing Back From Difficulties: Struggling with Change

Welcome to our third installment of our “Bouncing Back” series. We’re talking about how we can be spiritually anchored so that we may weather any storm. We won’t break – we can bounce back. We’ve talked about refusing to see obstacles as unbeatable. We’ve talked about rejecting hopelessness and holding on to hope. Today we talk about facing down change.

Last week I read a quotation from writer H.P. Lovecraft:

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.

Change-1080x675Those are some DEEP words. I’ll be totally upfront with you – I’m one of those people who fear the unknown. And nothing brings about the unknown faster than change. It can be change in your job, change in your family, change in your social status, change in the government, or ANYWHERE else in life.

Change brings the unknown.

The unknown brings fear.

People who are know more than I do about psychology note that humans LOVE certainty.

Uncertainty registers as an error, gap, or tension in the brain: something that must be corrected before one can feel comfortable again. That is why people crave certainty. Not knowing what will happen next can be profoundly debilitating because it requires extra neural energy. This can diminish memory, undermine performance, and disengage people from the present.

Humanity has been wrestling with change and uncertainty since the dawn of time. From ancient philosophers, to Kansas, to Bill and Ted, the reality of change and the transitory nature of life has overwhelmed us.

This is a prevalent theme of the biblical book Ecclesiastes:

The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course.

All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing.

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. 11 No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.

When we’re faced with change, many of us will freeze. Change becomes overwhelming and breaks us. Even the writer of Ecclesiastes felt overwhelmed by the permanence of change. That word “meaningless” in the King James English is “vanity.” It literally means “transitory” or “impermanent.”

Life. Is. Change.

But change doesn’t have to break us. How can we bounce back in the face of overwhelming change? Here are a couple tips:

  • Acknowledge the change. One of he most important thing to do when change is happening is to acknowledge it. Running and hiding from your problems never solves them. It may delay them for a bit, but acknowledging them is the best way to move towards overcoming the difficulty.
  • Face your fears. Go through each fear brought up by the oncoming (or already present) change and write down what you would do if that fear came to pass. It’s about shifting perspective. The Apostle Paul wrote about shifting perspective:

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 ~ For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Instead of focusing on the seen here and now, shift your gaze to that which has REAL permanence – God! Scripture declares that He NEVER changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The God who never changes is walking beside you through all of your changes. He is facing them with you, so focus on that instead of the change.

  • Seek support. Many of us don’t like asking for help. The Christian community was DESIGNED to be a source of support for the believer. We ought to be taking care of each other. You should know that I have your back, and I should know that you have mine. Change is less scary when you’re going through it with someone you know and trust!
  • Switch out fearful thoughts with positive ones. Getting back to hope, we can choose to focus on positive aspects of pending change. For example, one of the changes people fear the most is death. Paul takes the idea of passing into the next life and puts an incredibly positive spin on it:

1 Corinthians 15:50-52 ~ I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

Make it a habit to focus on the positive things that change can bring.

You’re not going to be able to escape change. But it doesn’t have to break you. Realize that change is a normal (albeit stressful) part of life. But it IS a normal of life. Back to Ecclesiastes, the writer says in a very famous passage:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

Change is gonna come. But it won’t break you.

I won’t quit. I have impact. Pain isn’t permanent. I will not break.

That Voodoo that You Do: Getting Control of Your World

I had an interesting conversation today. Actually, it was a ministry first. Someone asked me if it was okay for Christians to engage in Voodoo if it was for good results. It was an ethics question: say a child is sick and medical avenues courses have been exhausted but a local voodoo practitioner claims he can heal the child. Can the Christian employ voodoo for the sake of healing (and thus doing good)?

I was taken aback by the questions because I simply assumed (naively?) that the answer to such a question was a no-brainer. Apparently it isn’t and still needs to be addressed in some areas, so here’s why I think the Christian should not use voodoo, magic, or any other type of art even for the sake of performing good.

First, the Bible flat out tells us to avoid pagan practices like sorcery, divination, etc. This isn’t even one of those passages that is open to the “context” debate, meant for one time and place but not meant for all time and all people. No – this seems to be one of those verses that God intended to hold for eternity.

Second, using sorcery and voodoo is an attempt to manipulate the world through supernatural means. It removes God from the driver’s seat and tries to force our will upon people, life, and circumstances. The Bible is clear that God is God and we are not. It is not our place to try to manipulate the supernatural for our own desires. It demonstrates an inability to trust God and yield to him. It says, “I’m in charge and this is what I want so I’m gonna do whatever it takes to make it happen.” Such an attitude is not the attitude of a believer.

Two examples come to mind. The first is Jesus. He knew the course that was set before him. He knew his path led to death. And in normal human fashion he was looking for a way out. He repeatedly prayed, asking God to change the path and find a different way so that he didn’t have to go to death. But his ultimate conclusion was this: Not my will but yours be done. It didn’t matter what Jesus wanted because his only aim was that the will of the Father was accomplished.

The second example is Paul. Paul had something he referred to as his “thorn in the flesh.” We’re not quite sure what that thorn was but people who are smarter than I am speculate that it could have been some sort of vision or eye problem (he references having to write in large letters in one of his letters). Paul tells that he repeatedly asked God to remove this problem from his life. God’s ultimate answer was, “No.” Actually – it wasn’t just no. It was, “You don’t need to worry about it because my grace is sufficient for you.”

If we take the object of our faith (Jesus) and the premier preacher of the faith (Paul) as examples, we should be content to pursue every natural means possible to alter health and wellness. We simultaneously pursue prayer until our knees ache and our hearts are ready to burst. But in the end it is God’s call, not ours. We should not attempt to circumvent God and wrest control into our own hands, and that’s all that voodoo and witchcraft do.

Third, the philosophical argument put to me today was essentially that “the ends justify the means.” I do not believe that to be a viable philosophy. While some ends are worthy, there are some means that are simply wrong – no question about it. This philosophy has been the excuse for many atrocities against people. It doesn’t matter who we hurt as long as we’re moving towards the desired goal. Bogus. People matter, and we cannot walk over people simply to achieve positive results. Now move that principle into this blog’s question. If the ends do NOT justify the means then, even if we have good intentions, we cannot act contrary to God – even if we believe we’re doing good.

In the end it comes down to faith that God is God and sees what we can’t. Are we willing to yield to him and to his will? Will we surrender control of our own lives or are we willing to do whatever it takes to force our own results?

What do you think? Do the ends justify the means? Where do we stop in our pursuit of “good”?