After 34 years of marriage and ministry, Diane and I were right in the middle of one of the biggest changes of our lives. We had to sell our house, most of our belongings, say goodbye to our friends and families, and move to another country, nine thousand miles away. You can imagine the stresses.We had done it before, a few times actually. But somehow such moves never get easier.
Surviving change depends on what we do before the change
Some marriages breakdown during major changes. That usually means that they had little relational strength before the challenge came. You’ve heard the stories. The children marry and move away. Now the couple, alone with years of disappointments, see no reason to stay together- only a long list of unmet needs and unresolved conflicts. So they go their separate ways. If you do not want a future like that, you have to start preparing for a different future right now. No matter what the change, it always puts stress on your relationship to your spouse, your children, and others. Like the Boy Scout motto says, “Be prepared.” My friend Tom says, “You never know what’s around the next corner.”
Diane and I have built our life on trusting God- staying close to him and to each other. Have we had frustrations? We have, we do, and we will. But we face them together. We have long lists of answered prayers, forgiven offenses, and incredible joys, all because of God’s faithfulness.
Rules for the Road
Transition is a road, not just a destination. So here are some rules for the road that will help you reach your goal:
Be sure that God is Guiding and Providing
Total confidence in God comes from total commitment to God. But partial commitment brings partial confidence. Remember Proverbs 3:5 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart . . .”
Take one step at a time
Watch for God’s wisdom and provision at every turn. These instructions from Proverbs 4 have been a great help to me recently:
“Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.” — Proverbs 4:25-27 (New Living Translation)
Stay submitted to God
Be open to any revision or adjustment he wants you to make.
Tell God that you will willingly change anything about the decision that isn’t wise. If you have missed his direction in any way, readily change or even stop. God will help you get back on track.
Be sure you are together in the change
Both Diane and I have struggled through our own insecurities and fears. At times it seemed that we were on different sides with different viewpoints. But we have stayed open to persuasion, and have tried to be patient with each other. Because of that we move as one, and the changes draw us even closer.
Support each other through the hard times
Depending on our emotional makeup and experience, different aspects of a change will challenge us. I hope you will always be able to say, “My spouse was there for me, encouraging, listening and supporting.” And I hope that you will be that supportive encourager that your husband or wife needs right now.
Remember: Isolation: bad! Involvement: good!
Consider the effect of the change on your family and friends
Changes affect everyone . . . even people you might overlook. Our neighbor wept for two days when she heard the news about our move. She and her family had felt very safe with us next door, and my wife has been a friend and a support to her. Many years later, we are still good friends, though we rarely see each other.
We discussed the changes with our sons and their wives, our parents, and our church leaders. Informing and consulting show you care, and lead to better decisions. True, too many voices can cause confusion. But it’s also true that several wise counselors can enhance our safety. Friends, family members, and leaders have given us important insights during our seasons of change. Yours will do the same for you.
Resist the temptation to play “What If?” or “If only . . .”
“What if” statements are what David Burns, author of the book, Feeling Good, calls fortune-telling. No one knows the future, but we can know God. Use wisdom, plan appropriately in proportion to the scope of the decision, and you will do just fine.
“If only . . .” That’s the way second-guessing starts. Once you know you have made a wise decision that pleases God, stay on course. When tests come, affirm your faith in God.
Take time to lay down all the details
Change can really wear us down, even if it’s a good change. So here are a few ways to stay fresh.
- Have some fun.
- Don’t forget to laugh.
- Find some quiet moments with God every day.
- If you blow up, make up.
That’s it, friends. As for us, Diane and I have come this far by faith, in a faithful God. And like that old song says, “He’s never failed us yet.” He won’t fail you, either. Believe it!