CHANGE affects us all in different ways, but just the same, we respond to change in much the same way. But our responses are not set for life. Our responses to life’s difficulties and disappointments are our responsibility to control. We have the ability to respond well.
When something happens to us, we’re in the place of having a choice what our response will be.
Here are six possible outcomes of response:
1. Something bad happens and we use the issue to rail hard against life for plunging us into an abyss. The trouble isn’t responding like this, but landing in this outcome that anchors us in bitterness. The outcome is to become stuck in the seething rage of resentment manifest in passive aggressiveness.
2. When something bad happens we decide the pain of responding to the issue is too great a cost. How will we know if faith will serve us well, i.e. is it worth it? We deny the reality and therefore decide not to adapt to the learning and fail to grow. The outcome is to become stuck in a comfortable place of spiritual sameness, in boredom and of being boring.
3. Something horrendous takes place and nothing happens. No response is made. It’s as if nothing bad happened at all. Total denial. Until you’re reminded of the outcome when you don’t expect it and then you turn panicked or run in the moment to cynicism. Disparaging the situation or outcome won’t help, however. Running won’t, either. In response to future upsets, the cynic behaves like a child. The one given to panic learns to inwardly fear the unknowable future.
4. Change pierces the comfortable divide in our lives and it levels us, and the trauma becomes something we must overcome. Indeed, it’s trauma. We bear the marks of post-traumatic stress. But we refuse to stay there, committing what’s within us to the journey to coping. And, over the following years and decades, coping becomes our response. God proves faithful.
5. As change moves us into a new and challenging season we commit prematurely to a stoic response, without truly processing the costs of change, and feeling the losses for what they are. The outcome is initially a good one, but it’s fraught with danger. When the test comes, we fracture under pressure. But cracking under pressure is not the end of the story; God gives us the ability to learn as part of the following sixth response.
6. Changes rocks us, and for a time we’re backwashed into an emotional stupor, but in time we recover, and despite the ups and downs of recovery, we learn to reflect, buckle in humility, and ultimately we learn. God speaks. We listen. God advises us to lean in and endure the besmirching reality. The outcome is we move through the groaning passage of loss and our grief, and, through openness to learning, we acquire new resilience, wisdom, and understanding.
Some things in life,
Do surely condemn,
Things bringing strife,
When we need a friend.
God is one,
Who when we’d ensconce,
Helps ensure what’s done,
Is our best response.
The harder we meet change, the more likely it is that we’ll feel its full force and adapt best.
Our responses to life’s difficulties and disappointments are our responsibility. Taking responsibility is empowering, just as refusing to take responsibility is a bondage.
Steve Wickham is a pastor who holds Degrees in Science, Divinity, and Counselling
© 2016 S.J. Wickham.
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