For the past 10 years, my life has been full of transitions. After I graduated high school in Oklahoma, my parents sold the house left the country to be missionaries in China. I moved to Waco, Texas and studied at Baylor University.
After I graduated, I served as a youth pastor intern in Atlanta, and then went to seminaries Texas and Kentucky. After I got my degree, I got married and moved to Southern California for a year for a pastoral internship, and have just moved to Dallas to begin a new season of ministry.
So as you can see, a life of transition is not unfamiliar to me. I’ve spent the last 13 years of my life never having stayed in one living space for longer than 2 years at a time. Whether it be a new school, new friends, new family, new city, or a new job, transition is a part of my life that I’ve gotten used to.
Sometimes it’s been easy. Most of the time it’s been difficult.
Some of you might have gone through many transitions like I have or maybe some of you are floating in the mess right before or after a major transition in your life. In any case, how can we get through it well? What does a life of transition look like, particularly for the Christian?
I propose 3 simple practices that I follow to transition well:
1. Remember God’s faithfulness
Psalm 136 taught me this. This psalm retells Israel’s history from creation through its conquests in Canaan with a resounding refrain: for his steadfast love endures forever. The Israelites remembered and relied on God’s covenant faithfulness by remembering his deeds in the past so they could trust and follow him.
So I do the same thing: remember the past and remember the refrain. When I was anxious about moving to California with my brand new wife in what could be seen as a poor life decision, God’s steadfast love endures forever. When I was hesitant about the decision to move back to Dallas because I felt like I didn’t think it through and it cost more than I expected, God’s steadfast love endures forever. When I wanted to have a baby and grew anxious about timing and career paths, God’s steadfast love endures forever.
Practicing this reminds me that everything is going to be okay and that God has pulled me through before. If God has pulled me through in the past, I know that he can pull me through right now.
2. Remember God’s presence
When you read verses 10-16 of Psalm 136, where the writer remembers the great Exodus from Egypt, you can’t help but remember the story yourself. From the moment the Israelites were freed from slavery, God’s presence was literally seen in the form of pillars of cloud and fire. From the Red Sea to the wilderness, the Lord led them through every trial and provided for every need.
During all of my transitions the Bible was always within my reach. God’s Word fed me, nourished me, strengthened me, and guided me as I went through from Waco to Atlanta, Fort Worth to Louisville, and Los Angeles to Dallas.
But it’s incredible how we can often take God’s presence through His Word for granted.
The writer of Hebrews says that God “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). If God’s Word can hold the universe together, it means it can hold me together right now.
3. Remember God’s calling
I love how Peter refers to the recipients of his letters as ‘elect exiles’. Yes, there is persecution, trial, and hardship from every side. The enemy prowls like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). And yet, they are not simply in exile for the sake of being in exile.
They are elect exiles. One could say they were chosen for this time of wandering.
This means their exile serves a purpose. Peter said they are going through trials “so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).
I’ve moved to many places for school or work. But if I lose my vision and calling for why I’m there, I can lose all motivation and sense of purpose. If I lose motivation and purpose, I become depressed and unproductive. I would slip into a life of school for the sake of school or work for the sake of work, which would be a complete waste of time and resources.
I have to remember that I went through this transition for a reason, and my move is significant to God. There is a bigger and higher calling on my life, and I am fallible enough to forget it. I must practice remembering what I am transitioning for. And whatever that calling is, I must remember that ultimately it will be to test my faith for Christ’s praise and glory.
Seasons of change can be hard on anyone, especially if you aren’t used to it. And while they may be difficult and exhausting, it can be exciting and invigorating. Take the opportunity in the midst of a transition to remember God’s faithfulness, God’s presence, and God’s calling in your life.
Paul Hong is currently a student at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, TX. He and his wife, Anna, desire to plant a church in his hometown of Oklahoma City. He enjoys talking about theology, dates with his wife, basketball with his friends, and is a fan of the OKC Thunder.