Three tips for handling a new job, a layoff, a new child, an empty nest, a difficult illness and more
Posted in , Jul 9, 2020
Life is a series of transitions. Some seasons, in fact, seem to be nothing but transitions. And often, as the candy commercial says, change comes at you fast—so fast that it can be hard to know how to pray.
Last year my wife and I faced numerous transitions: a new job, the sale of our home, months in temporary housing, a move across the country, the purchase of a new home. It was nearly a full year of uncertainty and stress. We prayed a lot and learned a lot. Through it all, God taught us a few helpful skills for praying in such times.
1) Pray for your heart more than your circumstances.
According to the Bible, God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (see Isaiah 55:9). When we’re in the midst of difficult and shifting circumstances, of course we want the things to change—but God may have other, better, things in mind. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray for a change in the situation, but it’s even better to pray for our hearts to remain steadfast, for us to get close and stay close to God through it all, and for our relationships with God and others to be stronger on the other side of our transition.
2) Pray for grace to change what you can and surrender what you can’t.
My wife, who is a professional counselor, often reminds me (and others) that mental health consists of working to change the things we can and not trying to change the things we can’t. And we usually focus more of our prayers on external circumstances than on our own hearts, minds and attitudes. But praying for the grace to change what we can and surrender what we can’t change often helps us to reclaim a sense of control over some things and reminds us that the God who loves us controls everything else.
3) Give thanks for good things that don’t change.
One of the things that got me and my wife through our season of stress and transition was nightly prayers of thanks for the things that weren’t changing—some of which will never change. We rejoiced in our abiding love for each other, in our children’s and grandchildren’s love and respect for us, in our relative health and well-being and so on. Even more, we found solace in knowing “that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, NIV). It was a regular reminder that even in a time of uncertainty and upheaval, the best things in our lives hadn’t changed.
Change is never easy. Transition is often uncomfortable. But praying well through such times can make them not only bearable but also beneficial.