Here’s what my wife and I endured in less than a year: we had a child, moved across the country, entered a new ministry position, and legally changed our last name (long story; don’t ask).
This has been one of the most stressful seasons of my life. You might be going through a similar season. Perhaps you’re going off to college, about to get married, or between jobs. Maybe you’re about to plant a church or start a new pastorate. Seasons of transition are educational because they reveal the degree to which our source of joy comes from comfort and not from God. Times of transition don’t produce character flaws so much as reveal them.
And yet despite a myriad of unknowns and changes, you can still thrive spiritually during these times. Here are five things I learned during our season of transition.
1. Prioritize spiritual disciplines.
When life is crazy, we tend to practice the spiritual disciplines less. “I have so much going on, I can’t possibly make time for prayer,” we say. This is a mistake. As Martin Luther once said, “I have so much to do today that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
You don’t have to pray like Luther, but you shouldn’t expect to thrive without regular and private communion with God. Difficult seasons require more time with God, not less. In his excellent book on prayer, Paul Miller observes that “learning to pray doesn’t offer us a less busy life; it offers us a less busy heart.”
2. Remember God’s plan and yours aren’t the same.
I love the wisdom literature. Proverbs tells us to make plans; Ecclesiastes reveals the folly of a meticulously planned life. So which is it—plan or don’t? Both. Make a diligent plan, but then offer it to God, knowing his will and your will aren’t always the same. He has the right to rearrange your plans.
Make a diligent plan, but then offer it to God, knowing his will and your will aren’t always the same.
I say this because I’m a planner. I love all things productivity, time management, and habits. I like to consider all possible outcomes before making a decision. But even after prayer and seeking wise counsel and making the best decisions I could, I’ve still experienced setbacks, frustrations, and failures I couldn’t have anticipated. I may not have seen them coming, but God did. In fact, he choreographed all those decisions—big and small—before the foundation of the world. Somehow, delays and denials are part of his plan. During seasons of transition, God’s providence is an immeasurable source of comfort and joy.
3. Don’t go it alone.
The Christian life is not meant to be lived in isolation. God has given the believer the gift of a spiritual family, the local church, to be an instrument of spiritual help for every season. It can take time to find a new church family when relocating, so continue to lean on your current church while finding a new one. Seasons of transition are weathered easier when shared with a group who’ve promised to live the Christian life with you and help you make it home to glory.
Invite trusted Christian friends and family into your decision fatigue and changing circumstances. Ask them to pray for you. This isn’t the time to be superhuman and act like you have it all together. Ask for help. Send that text or email or social media message requesting prayer. During this season, the prayers of God’s people aren’t always known, but they’re often felt.
When I opened up my life to trusted sources and told them about my circumstances, some said, “Wow! Brother, that’s a lot.” The validation made me feel seen. It was a reminder that I’m not crazy and not alone.
Rely on the people of God.
4. Practice self-care.
What do you love to do? Exercise, garden, swim, hike? Keep doing it. Don’t put these things to the side in the name of busyness. Continue to practice self-care (rightly understood) by getting enough sleep, maintaining a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and doing things you enjoy.
In seasons of transition, anxiety levels can be so high that we tend to operate in reactive mode—and forget to steward our bodies well. Your mental and emotional health is at stake. Take care of yourself and enjoy life.
5. Prepare for new trials.
You got through the season. Congratulations! Now there will be a whole new set of trials waiting for you in the next one. As they say, you’re either going through a trial, just getting over a trial, or about to enter a new one.
Practical advice has its limits. We need supernatural help to flourish in turbulent times. More than anything, learn contentment in Christ. Learn to trust God. Learn to anchor your source of identity and self-worth in him, and him alone.
You’ll never be happy if you place your hope in circumstances; circumstances are always changing.
You’ll never be happy if you place your hope in circumstances; circumstances are always changing. Embrace seasons of transition as opportunities to reveal idols in your heart. Reckon with the progress in holiness you still need to make.
Theologians talk about the immutability of God. Immutability, in short, means God doesn’t change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). Unlike the flaky people in your life and your new set of circumstances, God can always be trusted because his character is always perfect. Banking on his faithfulness won’t stop the tears from coming, but it does provide resolute hope and joy amid the pain. God is faithful. He’ll be with you every step of the way.
The best part about life is knowing and enjoying God. When you anchor your joy in his unchanging character—not in changing circumstances—you will experience spiritual stability when everything else feels rocky.