It has been said that the one constant in life is change. Most of us, however, don't exactly welcome change with open arms. In many cases dealing with change can make us want to stay in bed with the covers pulled up over our heads. The odd thing is that we may have the same reaction whether the change is positive or negative. While everyone expects someone to go through a difficult period of transition after a death or divorce in the family, it can be surprising to find that adjusting to a new career opportunity, or a new child, or the new-found freedom an empty nest or retirement provides can sometimes be just as hard.
There are times when change is not that profound. We may not even be able to put our finger on what is different and yet we sense that change is occurring. We often just want things to go back to the way that they were, when we had our comfortable routine and knew our place in the world. Eventually, we know that we will adjust and develop a new routine. Until one day, out of the blue, when we are back to feeling quite comfortable with life, a new change will come and once again turn our life upside-down!
How, then, can we attempt to make change a little less stressful? Here are four ways to help make transitions somewhat less frightening.
1) Pray for Guidance.
One of the scariest things about change is the "unknown" factor. We do not know where the change will lead us. We can often feel like we are being swept away by the current with no control over the voyage. Sometimes, however, there are choices to be made. Those choices can be frightening due to their life-changing implications. Should I take a new job? Should I move to a new city? Which house should I buy? How should I best care for my aging parents? Any one of those questions (and many others) can have you lying awake at night counting the ceiling tiles. Turn over your concerns to God. It's helpful to know that even though it may seem that way sometimes, we are not alone in this life. God will help you to find the answer. It may not come as quickly as you might like, but be patient and the answer will come.
2) Acknowledge your emotions, but prepare to move on.
Some changes in life, such as the death of a loved one, an illness, or being laid-off from your job, come without any warning. It's okay to be angry, sad, grieving, and confused. It's also okay to let God know your displeasure. God already knows your anger and frustration. God knows the depths of your heart. Why try to hide? Share your feelings with God and offer them to Him.
The time will come, however, to accept the cards that you have been dealt. After praying for guidance, take concrete steps to move forward with your life. If you are grieving, attempt to rejoin the world in some small way. Perhaps do a kind deed for someone else to reconnect with the positive in life. If you are ill, take steps to heal or to manage your illness as best as possible. If you have lost your job, begin to search for new employment. Taking even small steps will help you feel more in control of your situation and provide some hope for the future.
3) Create a Ritual.
There is a reason we have rituals for significant events in life. Rituals are an outward sign of an inward reality: baptisms mark a spiritual new life, confirmations and graduations mark entry into adulthood, weddings celebrate the beginnings of a new family, and funeral rites help us to grieve. Some events are no less profound to the life of an individual but are not acknowledged by a formal ritual. In these cases, it may be appropriate to create one. Marianne Williamson encourages the use of ritual in "The Gift of Change: Spiritual Guidance for a Radically New Life." "If things are good, perform a ritual to praise and thank God. If things are sad, perform a ritual to call the angels to help you endure. Either way, a ritual will envelop you in a light that no material force has the power to bestow."
4) Acknowledge that God has the Master Plan.
If you look back on your life, you may see a pattern emerge. A set of circumstances that was inexplicable a few years ago may now have greater clarity. What seemed like a devastating loss may have led you to a greater good. God has a strange way of working in our lives. We desperately want to feel in control of our lives, and indeed God has given us free will to make decisions. But so many things are truly beyond our control. We need to trust that God is indeed leading us somewhere. We are the lump of clay in His hands and only the potter knows the beauty of the vessel we will become. Sometimes when we are in the wilderness of change, we need to simply trust in God's goodness that, eventually, all will indeed be well.
Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur is editor of "The Spiritual Woman Newsletter" (http://www.spiritualwoman.net) and author of "Letters to Mary from a Young Mother" (iUniverse, 2004).