When It’s Time to Embrace Change
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that saying. Obviously, the idea is to keep doing something if it’s working, but how do you know when something is broken? Well, there’s another saying that comes to mind: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”
How these sayings apply to our spiritual lives may not be immediately obvious. After all, our relationship with God isn’t something that we control. Yes, we can do things to make space for God or neglect our relationship with Him, but no relationship is entirely in one person’s hands. Just as our human relationships change, our relationships with God grow. God doesn’t change, but our knowledge of and experience of life with Him deepen. And sometimes God calls us to stop trying to put our relationship with Him in a box and embrace change.
For me, one of the changes that I found truly disconcerting was a change in the way that I experienced God’s presence. For the longest time, I encountered my Father and felt the Spirit’s presence and illumination when I read, meditated on, or studied Scripture. It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually this place began to feel like a barren wilderness with no sign of life.
Back to those sayings, I don’t know about you, but when something has been “working” for me, I tend to keep trying to deal with my circumstances the same way. In this case, I kept going back to God’s word again and again. At first I expected to encounter God just around the bend: tomorrow things would be different. Eventually, though, my reading of Scripture just became a rote exercise, often prefaced by a plea: God, speak to me. Meet me here. But as life got harder and God’s silence continued, I stopped expecting Him to show up. While I kept reading Scripture, going to church, and trying to encourage those around me, I was truly lost in the wilderness.
Maybe God’s Doing a New Thing
Eventually, God brought two people into my life that He used as part of bringing me out of the wilderness. And as the silence ended God reminded of some verses that He had laid on my heart years before:
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 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 . . . I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.Isaiah 43:18–21
While in the original context these verses address a specific people (Israel) in a particular situation (exile because of their disobedience), these verses teach us something about God’s character: He is faithful even when we aren’t. Sometimes, though, through the Holy Spirit God uses Scripture to speak to us personally. That’s what happened to me all those years ago.
At the time, I thought that God was telling me that He was going to transform my circumstances, “making a way in the wasteland.” Well, my circumstance did change. They went from really tough to nearly intolerable. On the other side of those years, though, I can see that God was promising His presence and provision. He was not abandoning me. He did indeed “provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” I just didn’t see it at the time.
God was also telling me that He would be doing something new. And when I (finally!) stopped expecting to encounter God in the same place and same way I always had before, He sent those two people to point the way forward—a path for my time in that place in between the plea and praise of the lament.
I’ll be sharing some of that path with you over the next few weeks, but this path isn’t just for those who are struggling in their relationships with God. Even if your relationship is flourishing right now, making room for Him in different ways can deepen that relationship. We can encounter God in new ways that teach us more about who He is and how He works in the world and in our lives. Embracing change doesn’t necessarily mean everything changes. (I still love spending time in God’s word.)
For now—whether spiritually you are in the wilderness or in a land of milk and honey— this is my prayer for you:
Father, as we remember Your faithfulness, may we not dwell on the past so that we cannot see what You are doing in our present. Give us eyes to see what You are doing today, whether it is in our circumstances or in our understanding. Give us eyes to see the water that You provide and the ability to drink deeply from it. And as we are refreshed by that water, may we not only praise and thank You, but may we become a source of love, encouragement, and refreshment to others—comforting them with the comfort with which You have comforted us. In Your precious Son’s name we pray. Amen.
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The image is by WikiImages courtesy of Pixabay.