We all face change. You can’t avoid it. Because of that, we all face the fear of change.
Change is built into our life experience as we make natural transitions from one stage of life to the next. We move from grade school to middle school. From middle school to high school. From high school to college.
Then we move from college to career (hopefully) and then possibly to marriage. Some of us will have kids and those that do eventually face the transition to an empty nest. We experience the change of our parents aging and eventually losing them. And then we face retirement and, of course, the ultimate transition: death.
These are just the normal changes. There are all the other changes that life throws at you: both good and bad: promotions and layoffs, divorce and remarriage. There’s financial and health setbacks as well as comebacks. We change our homes. We change our locations. And there are the changes that take place when we lose a loved one.
The Fear of Change
Every change evokes its own special set of fears because we’re not so sure we’re going to LIKE what’s on the other side of change. And maybe worse yet, we’re not so sure we’ll be able to HANDLE the change. We’re afraid that we won’t prove to be as competent as we are on this side. Or we fear we won’t be as successful or attractive or comfortable or have as much control as we do now. We fear that change will put a spotlight on our greatest weakness. The fear of change can stop us cold.
Because of these fears we often resist change. When we are comfortable we’ll do just about anything we can to avoid change. We’ll ignore it. We’ll drag our feet. We’ll definitely complain about it. We’ll attack the person leading change. We’ll even try to sabotage change. But in spite of our best efforts, some change is unavoidable. For this reason we need to learn how to face the change as well as the fear of change.
I recently spoke a message on facing the fear of change by looking at the change that Jesus brought to his followers. You can read or listen to the entire message here. But I’ll share the main points with you:
How to Face the Fear of Change
- Anticipate change. A lot of change we should see coming. I know parents that melt down when their kids leave for college. But really, didn’t they see that change coming? I realize that some change comes out of nowhere. But much of it can be anticipated. So stay alert. Look down the road and prepare for the obvious.
We fear that change will put a spotlight on our greatest weakness. The fear of change can stop us cold.
- Understand God’s perspective on change. God is never surprised. He’s never unprepared. He has Plan B, C, and Z waiting. He’s never boxed in. He can make good out of anything. So see things from God’s perspective and then…
- Trust God. I know. That’s practically a cliche. But change is the best time to have your faith tested. Now or never. What have you got to lose? Sit back and watch God give you what you need to handle the change. No matter what the change is that you are facing today, God’s got your back. You might not trust your new setting or circumstances but you can always trust God to be with you and to help you through your time of change.
- Focus on the gains and grieve the losses. Both are important. Don’t look for the sky to fall. Expect God to come through for you…maybe not like you’d like…but ending on top of the pile and not under it. Yet that doesn’t mean there won’t be any losses. You need to grieve your losses and not just fake your way through it. That approach will come back to haunt you.
- Embrace the change. Some people let change paralyze them. They refuse to move forward. People do this all the time. Think about the college student that is so afraid of change that she just sits in her dorm room Facebooking her high schools friends back home rather than engage in her new college life. Or think of the new dad that is so afraid of being a bad dad that he turns over all of the parenting responsibilities to his wife. Max Lucado says this about facing change: make friends with whatever’s next. Embrace it. Accept it. Don’t resist it. Change is not only a part of life; change is a necessary part of God’s strategy. FEARLESS
Your Defining Moment
Whatever the change is in front of you, it might be a defining moment in your life. God might be calling you to do something that will change your life forever. This could be your turning point. So don’t shrink back. Don’t miss the opportunity. God will be with you in your change and he’ll show you the good things about the change, if you let him.
Question: What has helped you face and overcome your fear? Leave your comment below.
Forgiveness offers a better path
A while back I shared a post about a person who I met in the treatment center that told me “I can’t forgive”. That was disheartening. It didn’t matter what I said. They didn’t want to hear it. This person was too deeply offended. It was never going to happen. I came home and wrote about the problem with saying “I can’t”.
That was two months ago. I ran into the same person a few days ago and they seemed different. I asked them how the forgiveness work was going and they said they wasn’t sure if they could do it but they were thinking about it. It shocked me. This might not sound like much movement but I saw it as HUGE. There was a crack of possibility.
Along with the new attitude this person’s face was softer.
With God…there is always a reason for hope. He gives us a clean slate every day with the promise to help us start over.
Before it was clearly bitter and in a permanent scowl. I told them that it was great to see that they were open to forgiveness when before they were closed. I asked this person what made the change and they said they had found God. They got plugged into a new power source and felt an immediate change. That was so exciting to see. I had felt so bad about their situation two months back. Now there was hope. What my teaching had no power to do on its own, God did.
Forgiveness Helps Find a Better Path
Then yesterday I received the following note on my Facebook page from a blog reader;
I have been reading your writings intently lately… What I have read so far has helped me more than you could know. I have PTSD resulting from years of childhood abuse, sexual and otherwise. My way of coping for many years took me to some dark places. I have the most trouble forgiving myself. I am sure I came upon your writings for a reason and I believe I am on a better path.
A better path. That’s why I write…to help readers find a better path. To help people reclaim their life. So many people lose hope. But with God…there is always a reason for hope. He gives us a clean slate every day with the promise to help us start over.
I hope you find a better path too. Maybe forgiveness will point you in that direction.
Question: If you’ve found a better path this past year, how did that happen? (I just installed a new comment system and I haven’t gotten nearly as many comments as I used to. Could you do me a favor and comment…even it’s just to say “hi” so I know the system is working? Thanks!”)
Receive a free sample of my book, STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships, when you subscribe to this blog.
The other day I got done teaching on the power of forgiveness and someone said to me, “Well, I can’t forgive.” Saying “I can’t” is something I’ve heard so often; I had to call this person on it. I said, “Is that true? You can’t?”. Well, no. She said she just didn’t want to. Ahhh… big difference.
Saying “I Can’t”
Is it true that “you can’t”? Or is the truth that you won’t?
Saying “I can’t” is a way to justify in our mind why we won’t. That’s our subconscious way of resolving an inconsistency in our logic. We know that we don’t want to forgive (or whatever it is we are facing) but we know that’s not a good enough reason, so saying “I can’t” is what we often do to convince ourselves. We hope it convinces others as well and gets us off the hook.
From Saying “I Can’t” to “I Won’t”
Saying “I won’t” reminds you that you are making a choice and forces you to take responsibility for your choices. You are choosing your future. Sometimes we don’t want to admit that. Saying “I can’t” implies there is no choice involved. You simply have to do it. It removes any sense of guilt or responsibility. It’s much easier to live with.
Another phrase that causes me to question people is “I’m trying”. Maybe. But more often than not “I’m trying” means “I’m putting in the minimal amount of effort to keep me and others off my back. I’m not expecting to change. I don’t even want to change. But I can’t stand the pressure. So I’m just telling people that I’m trying.”
Just be honest
What if you start being honest with yourself and others? Start saying “I won’t do that” or better yet “I’m choosing to not do that”. The result is the same as “I can’t” or “I’m trying” but it forces you to deal with the deeper issue of why you don’t want to do it. It forces you to deal with the fact that you are making a choice.
Maybe there are good reasons why you won’t do something. Saying “I won’t” will cause you to find those reasons. At the same time it will also cause you to consider and come to terms with the wrong reasons for not doing something. It will also cause you to take responsibility for your actions and the future you are choosing.
Over time you might consider another phrase….”With God’s help, and the help of others, I CAN change. I will change.” And then shortly after that you can start saying…”I AM changing” and eventually…”I’m a new person!”. Or as the Bible says…old things have passed away and all things are new“.
Words have power. Some words keep us stuck in the past. Other words open the door to a better future.
Question: What words or phrases keep you stuck? Leave your comment below.
This post was adapted from my new book STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships