Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there~ Genesis 39:1 NIV
There was a time in the not-so-distant past when I believed with all my heart I was one of those unicorn-like individuals who actually liked and even thrived on change.
I now know I was an idiot. Seriously.
I’m pretty sure I aggravated the decency out of anyone unfortunate enough to have a conversation with me about the subject. I suspect there were a large number of people who sat quietly contemplating homicide, as I waxed eloquent on my love for change and my nearly superhuman ability to adapt to whatever came my way.
Insert gagging sounds here.
Then about five years ago I had an unpleasant reality check in the form of at least a dozen different changes I did not like, want or understand.
The good news is that I got to be a lot less annoying really quickly as I figured out that I, like all normal people really only like change I have some control over. Change is wonderful in the abstract or when you’re contemplating something fun, like a move to a new city, a new baby or a job promotion.
Change is just not nearly as thrilling when it is thrust upon you like an ugly blind date. Or when it shows up uninvited in the shape of something awful and unwanted like a job loss, a car accident, a death in the family, a grim diagnosis or a divorce you didn’t ask for.
However. As Christians we have the confidence that nothing enters our lives without God’s foreknowledge. And that if we choose to live for God in the midst of circumstances we do not like or understand, good will eventually come out of even the ugliest of situations (Romans 8:28). Because I truly believe those things to be true, I came to terms with the fact that God had a purpose for the changes disturbing my peaceful reality.
I learned some hard lessons during that period of my life; and not just to shut my pie-hole about circumstances I didn’t fully understand. I also learned that whether or not we barely survive changes or thrive in the middle of it all depends on whether or not we understand and live-out these four truths…
Unwelcome change brings losses that should be grieved-
I am not intimating that the trauma of a married woman’s unplanned pregnancy is somehow equal to the trauma of the death of loved one. However, both changes involve loss and all losses deserve at least a quick trip through the five stages of grief. Taking the time to feel the feelings that come with loss, rather than pretending those feelings don’t exist, or worse, put on a happy that’s basically just a lie will prevent emotional problems (such as depression) and spiritual problems (such as bitterness) in the future (Hebrews 12:15).
Guard your heart against bitterness and hate-
The greatest danger in unwelcome change is bitterness. We can easily become embittered towards the people who wronged us, didn’t see our value or who betrayed our trust in some way. We can also become bitter towards God for not working our circumstances out in a different way. Bitterness towards anyone is poison to our souls and must be dealt with decisively by grieving the loss, forgiving the jerks that hurt us and choosing to accept the new normal (Ephesians 4:15, Psalm 71:20, Colossians 3:13).
Embrace the opportunities change brings-
I hate trite sayings. Truly I do. However, it’s just a fact that when one door closes another one opens and it only makes sense to bloom where we are planted (Jeremiah 29:4-12) That being said, we can get so caught-up in what we are losing that we don’t see the opportunities that opening up right in front of us. If you find yourself in the messy middle of unwelcome change, ask God to show you the doors He’s opening on your behalf. I guarantee there will be some (Isaiah 43:19).
Unwanted changes are a time for reflection and self-improvement-
God did not bring unwanted change into my life because I was doing anything wrong or sinful. However, in retrospect I was really bad at being assertive with certain people. As a result I was going in a direction others had chosen for me and I had little inclination to do the things I was actually called to do. That period in my life gave me the downtime I needed to self-analyze and eventually become a lot more assertive when I needed to be. I also got to know God and myself a whole lot better. In the process of all that reflection I figured out who I really was and what I was really good at.
Joseph (Genesis 37-50) is the poster-child for surviving and prospering in the midst of unwelcome change. He was sold as a slave by his brothers, jailed for a crime he didn’t commit and forgotten by the person who had the power to rescue him. Through all that he never stopped learning, growing and trusting God. As a result of his willingness to embrace the opportunities that came with unwelcome change he literally transformed the future.