Rob here. Last thursday evening we had a stunning sunset here in Hamilton, NZ. Pinks and oranges rippled across the sky creating a visual delight. Isn’t it amazing that such beauty can be created by the sun disappearing! Of course, there is also beauty in a sunrise. I just don’t see it as often!
Life is made up of a series of transitions. Things come to and end and new things begin. We move from kindergarten to primary school to intermediate to high school to tertiary study to work with it’s series of transfers and promotions to retirement. During this time we often change towns, friends, churches, houses and jobs. We also make transitions every day; from sleeping to waking; from home to work; from your lunch hour to a staff meeting; from work to dinner with the family; from waking to sleeping. Some transitions are easy and natural like the daily ones I just mentioned. Others are far more difficult. Missionaries moving back home for example. Yesterday I took a funeral for a woman who’s leaving behind her husband of 61 years. What about those who experience divorce or other family upheavals?
One of the most difficult times in my life was when Jake, our first-born arrived; my job at the local bible college was ending and my new job, as the pastor of our church, was just beginning. It was a perfect storm that led to a breakdown and the need for a month away from work. I realise now that I didn’t recognise the spiritual impact that transitions can have.
Transitions are a spiritual battle-ground; especially those that involve a significant change of lifestyle or vocation. There’s the natural stress that comes with leaving the familiar behind and embracing something new, but there’s also the very real threat of becoming disconnected from God. We can attach God to a location or a role that we perform. God may feel close to us as we work but if our job changes then where is God? Or your faith may be tied to God’s good gifts of a loving spouse and nice home. But what if the spouse leaves or dies and the house needs to be sold? Where is God then? My stress came even though I was getting what I had asked for! We had waited a long time for our son and for my call to be a pastor to be fulfilled. The problem was that I was trying to be super-dad, super pastor-in-waiting and super college boss out of a place of spiritual emptiness. Not a good idea! I was out of my depth trying to outrun a tidal wave by using doggy-paddle!
I hadn’t called on Jesus to be my transition manager! He promises that he is with us always. He also tells us that in him we have undergone the greatest transition of all; death to life. By sharing in Christ’s death and resurrection we learn how to die to the old and come alive to the new. Through faith we are asked to trust that God knows what is best for us; that in him there is life in all its fullness; we can trust his Spirit’s work in our new hearts and he will never leave us nor forsake us.
I know people who have thrived after a difficult divorce; found a new lease of life even after losing a loved one; had God lead them to new friendships at a new school that are healthy and good. God saw me through as well with love, patience and grace; while teaching me a whole lot about myself to boot. “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Let Jesus’s words encourage you as you face your own transitions today.