I don’t know about you, but 2019 has been a busy, exciting, and stressful year for me. From getting married to planning and leading a mission trip for the first time to my wife and I starting Master programs to moving from full-time to part-time in one job and being promoted from part-time to full-time in a second job, this year has been marked by new things.
I wouldn’t label any of these changes as bad. In fact, I would even say they were great, even wonderful! I wouldn’t trade out my marriage or graduate school. But even great and wonderful things can have their difficulties. Change is hard because it is new and new means we have to work to figure out different systems.
As we end one year and begin a new one, it is a natural time for us to think about new beginnings. Sayings like “Out with the old and in with the new!” combined with a desire for new year resolutions disillusion us to the difficultly of change.
Change is challenging. Change is exhausting. Change is a fight.
To ignore how difficult change can be is not being optimistic, it’s setting yourself up for failure. There is a preparation that is needed when it comes to change. Strategies and plans to lay out so you don’t revert to the old.
Sometimes we don’t have a choice in change. Sometimes we look in the mirror and wonder when became this new person. Sometimes the world around us grabs hold and takes us on a ride. It might be so slow and steady that we miss the whole process, or it might be so fast and turbulent that we hold on for dear life.
Change is powerful. Change is directive. Change is a force.
To believe that we are always the ones controlling change is ignorant. Change is something that happens to us just as often as it is something we choose. By its very nature change is dynamic. We shouldn’t claim to be able to have it all figured out, because once we think we do, it changes on us.
With that in mind, I do feel comfortable in saying that change is neutral. That comfortability comes from an understanding that change is neither good nor bad. And if it is neither, then it has to be neutral, right? The argument behind this idea is a little more complex and detailed, but here’s a simplified example that will hopefully get the point across.
If I am lying sick in the hospital, there are three possible outcomes.
1) My health can stay the same.
2) My health can make a change for the better.
3) My health can make a change for the worse.
If change happens, it is the result of the change that makes the situation good or bad. The change is just a vessel that takes us from one point in time to the next. So, change is neutral. It is how we use, and react to, change that brings about something good or bad.
There is a quote by author Tony Robbins that says “change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” This quote does an amazing job at describing the difficulty of change. Because of the fear of change, we do not tend to change until that terrifying and brutal process becomes easier and safer than staying where we are.
But I want to propose an alternative saying. My fear is that this saying ignores the joy of change. Sometimes we aren’t currently in a painful situation, in fact, maybe our situation is pretty good. If I have little to no pain in my life, am I doomed to stay a static character in this word?
I have no research to back this up so this statement stands as a theory, but this theory pulls from what we see in Scripture. Jesus didn’t come preaching fire and brimstone, telling everyone that they will burn in hell unless they follow him. He did not come to increase our current pain so that we will change our ways and follow him. He did the opposite. He came to ease our suffering, to bring us a lighter yoke than the one we carry now.
Jesus came to show us what the beautiful kingdom of God looks like.
He came to show us a better and fuller way to live. He came to show us a beautiful place that change could take us. But he constantly reminded us that this change was not free of pain. Jesus asks us to change our lives, follow him, and then we will be persecuted. Follow me and you might be crucified for it. This is not a model of a less painful change.
So why do people change their lives for this whole God thing? And how do we show others that this God thing is worth changing for?
We paint them a picture. We show them that the beauty of a life with God is greater than the beauty of a life without God.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
This is why we change. God takes the brokenness that we have brought into the world and makes everything new again. This loving God plans to live and walk among us. God plans to take away our death and our mourning and our crying and our pain, to wipe all the tears from our eyes and whisper “I am making everything new and you will never feel broken again.”
Why do we change our whole lives to follow God? Because God paints us a picture of a place that’s beauty is far greater than wherever we are now.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”
This is the change God wants for us. This is the beautiful picture that God paints for us. A picture of a continuous bounty that covers all our needs. A picture where there is no more strife between countries. A picture where wars and bombings and shootings are replaced with peace and love and joy. A picture where the presence of God expels all darkness and chaos. A picture where we get to dwell with our loving creator for ever and ever.
This is a beautiful picture worth changing for. This is a hope worth living and dying for. This is a promise worth living into each day.
What blows me away is that we do not have to wait for everything to be made new. God invites us into changing the world and helping make all things new. Jesus came to show us how to live into this picture now. Jesus came to introduce us to this kingdom. He healed the sick, ate with the outcasts, and forgave those who others would not. Jesus gave us a taste of what is to come and invited us to experience his kingdom of love and healing now.
With God, change is healing. With God, change is growth. With God, change is a blessing.
Here is where I ask you to think about 2019.
-How well did you paint this picture for others?
-Did your words and actions and life point to this beautiful promise that God has given us?
-Did you change in a way that brought you closer to God?
-Did you live a life that inspires others to change?
-Do you even believe in this promise that God has given us?
I don’t know what resolutions you have for this new decade, or if you have any at all. For those of you who claim to be Christians, I would suggest adding to the list: Live in a way that helps make all things new. Then list some specific ways you can do that this month.
When you live into this amazing kingdom that God has planned for us, you will change not only your world, but the world around you.
If you don’t buy into this whole God thing yet, or you did at one time but have since given it up, that’s ok. I get it. The world is full of such brokenness and pain and terrible, terrible things that sometimes it seems like it could never get better. Sometimes it looks like a good God could never exist. Sometimes those who are supposed to be making the world better actually make it worse. My hope is that you look at the beauty of what God promises and ask yourself if that is something you want too.
God does not promise to make everything better now. God does not promise to take away all the death and mourning and crying and pain right now. Change is a process. These are promises that we won’t see until a next life. But God does want to start changing the world now! God wants this picture of a perfect, beautiful world to bleed into our lives today.
We are warned that some people will push back against this, and we know from experience that this is true. But God reminds us who wins and what the final picture looks like. We are not destined for a world where the powerful use oppression to exploit the weak. We are destined for a world of healing and love where we live in peace and harmony with all.
So how will you and God change the world for the better in 2020?
Comment with any thoughts, ideas, or questions! I would love to hear what you think!