The Bible’s Most Practical Lesson for Navigating Change
Some of the most quoted words of the Bible are from the Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, verses 1-8:
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”
This sacred list from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 represents all the seasons and the important changes of our lives. Some are happy times, others sad; some are productive while others seem wasteful; some inspire peace and others bring pain.
All of them are necessary for us to learn, grow, and evolve as spiritual beings.
Their appearance is not by accident. If we look closely enough, each experience reveals a loving, divine purpose that we can learn to trust.
Lesson No. 1: Look for the Gift
Each major transition in our lives requires our undivided time and attention for successful passage. Each one also presents a gift—if we're open to receiving it.
Some of these gifts are easy to identify: the spring moments of new beginnings; the summer moments of easy, carefree living; and the autumn moments of bountiful harvest.
Other gifts are not so easy to identify, such as the transitional storms that often usher in a new season, the oppressive heat of summer, or the bitter cold of winter. These other gifts require us to look beyond the appearances and peer much deeper for their significance
Although new beginnings are usually preferred over endings, we should remember that every new beginning requires an ending—sometimes even a death.
Likewise, reaping a harvest may be preferred over the work of preparing, planting, and tending a crop or garden, but we cannot enjoy one without the other.
Even the transitional storms of our lives are necessary to clear the atmosphere of old ways of thinking that keep us from fully experiencing the next seasons of our lives. The oppressive heat of summer and the bitter cold of winter cause us to retreat within ourselves for rest, renewal, and creativity.
Lesson No. 2: Go with the Flow
The flow of life is a process of change. We must learn to accept the process and go with it. There's no stopping it anyway.
Sometimes the challenges we encounter seem like dark tunnels, yet every tunnel has a light at the end of it. As we grope in the darkness, we can focus on the faint light we see in the distance. This light represents the gift—whatever it is we are to learn, to heal, or to change. The darkness will pass as we move toward the light, as we gratefully receive the tunnel's gift.
Nothing in life is static for long. As the late Unity minister and teacher Rev. Eric Butterworth often said, the process of life is “grow and go.” As soon as we grow to the next higher level in our evolutionary consciousness, it is time to go to the next level. And on and on we grow and go—unless we resist.
When crisis comes, resistance is the normal first response. It's self-protective, yet in the long run, it becomes self-destructive.
With every crisis comes a choice—to resist or to accept, to respond in fear or in faith, to say yes or no.
If we remember that there is a gift in every crisis or challenge—in every transition of life—we will be able to go with the flow more easily. As we discover the gift in every season, we learn to trust that loving, divine purpose behind it. Then the current of life can carry us off to new adventures, more rewarding and exciting than any we may have chosen in a resistant state of mind.
Lesson No. 3: Recognize the Stages of Transition
In his book Finding Yourself in Transition (Unity Books, 1995), Unity minister and teacher Rev. Robert Brumet explains the three distinct stages we all tend to go through in every major transition. Each one begins with an Ending—something or someone we must let go of before we can begin anew.
After an Ending comes the Void—a time of grief, disorientation, and eventually acceptance of the change. Then we're ready for the New Beginning itself.
As with the seasons of nature, these stages cannot be rushed and they require whatever time it takes to pass through them and to receive their gifts.
Ten More Practical Steps to Navigate Change
Robert Brumet offers 10 practical steps to help us through what is undoubtedly the most difficult stage of transition: the Void.
- “The quickest way through the Void is to embrace each experience fully … and then let it go.”
- “If possible, avoid making any major decisions or long-term commitments.”
- “Don't attempt to rush your process or force anything to happen. Accept each day as it comes.”
- “Pray and meditate for regular periods each day.”
- “Trust in God … your own inner Wisdom.”
- “Take care of yourself physically … Eat wholesome meals; exercise regularly; get plenty of rest.”
- “Pay attention to your dreams … Keep a dream journal.”
- “Keep a daily journal. Record your primary thoughts, feelings, insights, and experiences each day.”
- “Develop a support system … a counselor, friends, family, and/or a support group.”
- “Create some type of ritual to symbolize your passage from the old life to the new.”
We all prefer our life changes to occur smoothly and naturally. But when they come at us with all the force of a perfect storm, we can remember that these are intense opportunities for transformation.
If we respond to each storm from the “eye” of God's presence within, where perfect peace and wisdom dwell, we will emerge even stronger, wiser, and freer than before. We will be transformed.