by Jo Kadlecek
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space. Learn more here.
I won’t lie: I’m glad this past year is over and we’re entering a new one. I’m glad not to be unpacking dishes and books in a new apartment, glad I don’t have to learn new bus routes or dog walks or find where the best grocery store is. And I’m especially glad for a church to call home after months of trying to discern which to attend in the city we moved to.
On the other hand, I’m not glad for the bumpy interactions with dear friends, new colleagues or family members, or of the losses that came when trusted leaders I know took on new roles in other places—though I am happy for them. In my head I know God has worked in each situation, forming in me, I hope, a softer heart and a clearer vision of His promise as Emmanuel, God with us. But honestly, I’m not a fan of change, especially when so much of it was crammed into a single year.
And I don’t think I’m alone. I don’t know anyone who wakes up in the morning and says, bring on the change! No, we—as humans and as Christians—like routine, steady ships and familiarity that brings a sense of security in an increasingly crazy world. We want rhythms that help us navigate each day even when things go haywire. Whether the smallest of change or an entire season of upheaval can test our faith and shake our trust in a God who—we know intellectually at least—has never changed.
So how do we maintain healthy habits in the midst of new situations or difficult challenges? What truths or actions might we cling to when we face uncertainty? What can we do to stay the course so we’re found faithful in the end while still focused on the earthly moment? To be like the Proverbs 31 woman, “clothed in dignity and strength; she can laugh at (not dread) the days ahead”?
1. Worship. Setting our hearts on the things above (Colossians 3:1) means being present in, and to, God’s Presence. We acknowledge him as the God over all of our lives, admitting our lack of real control. Whenever enemies chased King David, keeping him on the run and in a constant state of change, he often set his heart on God’s attributes. The Psalms—many of which he wrote—are full of poems of worship, acknowledging God’s faithfulness and steadfast love, turning us back regularly to God’s greatness. We see (in Psalm 39 for instance) David aware of his changing circumstance, his fleeting life, yet confident that his hope was in the Lord. He acknowledged God’s goodness no matter the events and assigned to God the glory due his name. Worship sustained David, and it sustains us.
2. Connect with others. Changing circumstances can make us want to retreat and though solitude can be important, we need others to keep us moving forward. Imagine the disciples when Jesus had been killed; talk about a massive change they didn’t see coming! Their leader crucified?! What now? The uncertainty was enough to make them give it all up. After all, they thought Jesus would usher in a whole new kingdom; instead he was murdered on a cross. But what did they do with such upheaval? They stayed together, even in their disillusionment and fear. And when a Risen Christ came to them three days later, they were restored to their mission and renewed in their devotion. They remind us why the being in a local church is so important; it’s where we meet the Risen Lord with other believers no matter what else is happening in our lives.
3. Prioritize your health. Proverbs is full of connections between wisdom and healthy bodies (3:8, 4:22). Just as our worship is intentional as is gathering with other followers of Jesus, we remember our bodies are God’s temple (1Cor. 3:17). Whether we’re moving house, starting a new job, or grieving a loss, we still need to eat right, exercise enough, and sleep the allotted time our bodies need. Change can be stressful and our bodies will internalize it if we don’t pay attention to the doctor’s orders.
4. Play. A sure sign of a healthy life with Jesus is joy. Too often, though, the temptation in new seasons is to forgo the creative things we love to do, that keep us laughing. Who has time for fun when everything is in chaos? I think the better question, who doesn’t? Writer and pastor Eugene Peterson used to schedule in time to his weekly calendars for Dostoyevsky; he loved reading the Russian novelist and made sure his ‘meetings’ with him were not interrupted. It made him, he said, a better pastor because he made time for a literary pleasure. Whatever the simple joy, we, too, will be better off including it in our weekly agendas. The lightness of these moments can refresh our souls and keep us from becoming too glum, intense or stressed.
5. Sing. A minister I know told me she regularly encourages others, ‘When in doubt, sing!’ I love this! Who can be stressed packing boxes or filling out new postal forms when you’re singing? Something about the gift of music and song lifts our spirits and nurtures gratitude in our heart
6. Stay in touch. Even if you’re moving across the globe (as I did) it’s helpful to stay connected every now and then with people you have a lovely history with. A change of place or circumstance can make us prone to loneliness and depression so touching base with a familiar voice and face—thank you, Skype!—helps in any transition. We bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ: to love (Galatians 6:2).
Obviously, these six habits could be cultivated any time in our lives if we want to grow as followers of the One who never changes. But they become a protective shield whenever change comes. They guard our witness, pointing others to the Prince of Peace. After all, we’re called not to allow circumstances to control us or make us anxious, but to stay available to God’s Presence in all situations. Why? So we can serve others as his hands, comfort others with the same comfort we ourselves have received (2 Cor. 1:4) and reflect the love of Jesus to others in what seems to be an increasingly shifting world.
There’s something to be said about the Queen’s edict: Keep calm and carry on. It might be another way to explain the parable of Luke 6:48: If we build our house on the Rock of Jesus, through a thousand little steps each day, we can be sure that when the storms of change, we’ll still be standing.
Originally from Denver, Colorado, Jo Kadlecek is the Creative Director of Anglican Deaconess Ministries in Sydney, Australia. She is the author of many books and articles, most recently the memoir (available in audio and print, “Woman Overboard: How Passion Saved My Life” (Fresh Air Books), and has had more addresses than she can remember.