By Deb Griest
Any time we go through a transition in life, we can find ourselves asking this important question of God – “What do I do now Lord?” This is a very healthy question to ask, but unfortunately for most of us, including me, it often only comes after we’ve diligently tried to figure out the answer on our own. Asking God is sometimes the last resort instead of our first instinct.
Many of us struggle through times of change. I know I have. Suddenly or gradually over time things in our life change – our kids grow up and move out, we leave or start a new job, we change marital status, we get a bad health diagnosis, or we just get sick and tired of the way we’ve been moving through life. Adjusting to the restrictions of COVID-19 have set a lot of us in the past year.
As a spiritual director I have walked with many people going through these and other types of change. Adjusting to change and establishing a new life rhythm can be really unsettling. We can feel off kilter and fearful about our ability to have worth, be successful, or even survive.
It sounds dramatic but change of any kind tricks our brain into telling our body that survival is at risk! Why is this? Well, generally when things change our ego has a hard time adjusting. Suddenly the things that have brought us a sense of self-worth, satisfaction, and comfort are gone. You don’t have to be an ego maniac to have this experience.
God gave us many scriptures to console us when we’re walking on unfamiliar ground. These three are familiar to most Christians, but again, our brain forgets them when we’re in uncomfortable seasons. All were spoken by prophets to people who were fearful of what laid ahead for them.
- “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
- “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 9:11)
- “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)
I have recently “retired” from my corporate work as an executive coaching and consultant. Unlike my behavior in many other life transitions, in this one I started asking God the “what do I do now” question well in advance of transition out of corporate life. And guess what? God actually answered my question! At least He gave me some initial sense of direction. God is FAITHFUL. He fulfills His promises if we are willing to ask, if we are willing to wait patiently (not my strength), and if we are willing to listen.
I didn’t get a dramatic answer to my question. God gave it to me a little at a time (that’s why its good to start early if you can anticipate change). I’m not sure what my reaction would have been if the answer had been dramatic. I did get an answer that brought me peace. God simply said “first you need to rest and slow down the pace of your life. Second you need to watch what I’m doing around you through and continue to walk the path I have already prepared for you. And finally, if you listen to me more closely, I will keep you posted of next steps.”
God is always two (or two thousand) steps ahead of us. Because of that we don’t have to worry, and we don’t have to struggle. He has been “doing a new thing” long before we realized we were in a season of change. He has it under control. He will still give us choices, but there is a plan that will give us a sense of worth and purpose in Him.
I would be lying if I said that my transition into retirement is without angst. There are mornings when I get up and don’t have anything on a calendar that used to be packed with phone calls, meetings, and important To Do’s. My ego panics and I rustle around trying to plan a day that will make me feel good about my contribution to the world when all God wants is for me to rest in and listen to Him.
If you’re dealing with or anticipating unsettling change, these questions might be helpful for you to take into your time with God:
- What am I to do now Lord?
- Why is this so unsettling to me Lord?
- What is my ego afraid of in this situation?
- How do you want me to experience your love and grace during this period Lord?
Deb Griest is (and will continue to be until God changes the plan) the Executive Director and a retreat director for Seeking Stillness Ministries (www.seekingstillness.org)