By Patrick Miller
Patrick Miller is pastor at The Crossing, where he blogs and leads their digital team. His podcast, Ten Minute Bible Talks, offers devotionals in the time it gets to work and interesting conversations about culture, politics and practical life with Keith Simon. You can follow Patrick on Facebook or send him an email.
Just when you settle into a livable routine it happens. It wrecks your schedule. It bowls over your job description. It sends your best office friend to a different building.
It might feel like a terrifying nightmare clown that feeds on your misery. But it’s not. It is change. Unfortunately change tends to come when things are going well. When business is growing. When departments are succeeding. When co-workers are crushing it. Why? Because success brings growth. And growth brings change.
But what does change bring?
I’m tempted to show a picture of seventh grade me. But I’m too proud. Instead, just imagine a bespectacled fat boy with skinny arms, gap teeth and a shaved head. Now make that image worse. The problem with seventh grade me was that I knew that things weren’t going well—never mind that they weren’t going well for anyone else, either. All I wanted was for this awkward stick-man-butter-boy phase to end.
And it did. While my third decade hasn’t transformed me into Brad Pitt, I can confidently say I am smarter, wiser, and less difficult on the eyes than I was back then. With the gift of foresight I can see where growth ultimately led. Seventh grade me wasn’t a detour or highway pitstop. He was the necessary pavement on the way from there to here.
That’s what makes change hard isn’t it? On the one hand, you have to mourn losing something you loved. On the other hand, you have to accept that your life might feel like an awkward seventh grader for a bit. It would be easy if you could see the road before you, but that path is foggier than Newfoundland in April.
This is where life experience matters. If you’re in your first job, undergoing your first big change you might wonder whether growing pains will end. They will. If you talk to people who have gone through truly terrible change (life changing injuries, losing a child, a cancer diagnosis at age 19) have a terribly annoying habit of repeating this same basic truth: of course I wish it never happened, but I will never wish away the growth, character, tenacity, faith, hope, love, and change it produced in my life.
They sound a lot like the Apostle Paul, who—despite being stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked, disowned, and shamed—said “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternalweight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Compare that to what you hear some academics, pop psychologists and mental health experts saying: if anything causes you stress, discomfort, or mental disequilibrium, then that thing is harmful, dangerous, and out to get you. What doesn’t kill you, makes you weaker. This is terrible advice, that will make you weaker. Why? Because it will transform you into a soft skinned jellyfish, who sees enemies and threats everywhere and stings at them accordingly.
Jellyfish people can’t say with Paul, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame” (Rom. 5:3-5).
Change is not your enemy. The people bringing change in your life are not your enemy. Change is the furnace that functioning adults out of awkward seventh graders. Change is the furnace that forges the character, work ethic, tenacity, love, hope, and vision you require to contribute something lasting to God’s world. Change is the furnace that burns off the dross—selfishness, pride, comfort—that makes you less than God knows you can be.
By saying this, I’m not minimizing the pain of change. It is a furnace. Last time I checked, furnaces aren’t comfortable places to live. But you can’t turn raw iron ore into super steel without one.
The key to enduring change is keeping your mind fixed on the hope that lies ahead. The road in front of you may be lost to a low fog. But even in the fog, you can make out the silhouette of a tall mountain in the distance. That mountain is our hope for a world made right by king Jesus. It only takes a little deduction to guess that the road before us leads there. Which means that we are onthe making-the-world-right path to making-the-world-right mountain.
Here is the good news: the fog will lift. You will look back—if you let the furnace refine you—and you will join that crowd of annoying people who says, “I wouldn’t have picked that path, but I won’t ever take it back. I couldn’t be who I am without it.”