How to Cope With Change
Whether it's moving, graduation, going to college, a new job or retirement, the changes in your life can be exciting and unsettling. How can you cope?
By Mike Bennett
How do you feel when a major change takes place in your life? Excited and eager? Or scared, lonely and lost?
Perhaps it's a mix of these feelings.
Change can be unsettling there are new locations to adapt to, new people to meet, new skills to master, new schedules to get accustomed to. Change can have a dramatic effect on your life.
How can you cope with these challenges, and make the most of them?
Daniel goes to college
To find some of the answers, let's look at someone who successfully handled major changes in his life.
Daniel was probably a teenager when a conquering army assaulted the nation of Judah and carried him captive to a land hundreds of miles from his home.
The conqueror, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, decided he wanted to train some of the brightest, best-educated captives to serve in his empire. Daniel was among those who received forced admission with a full scholarship to this exclusive university:
"And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king's delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king" (Daniel 1:5).
Besides everything else that had dramatically changed in his life, Daniel found that the food he was offered at the king's university would be bad for his health and spiritual condition. What could he do?
Daniel proposed an alternative that would help him hold on to what he knew was right. He thought out possible objections, and his proposal answered them all. Daniel didn't let feelings of helplessness overwhelm him-he got involved in shaping his life:
"But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank....
"So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel... `Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our countenances be examined before you, and the countenances of the young men who eat the portion of the king's delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants' " (verses 8, 11-13).
With all the changes happening to him, Daniel knew he needed help. So he stayed close to God.
"He knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days" (Daniel 6:10).
God respected Daniel's commitment and responded to his prayers. God saved his life several times-even from certain death in the lion's den.
Daniel also built strong friendships with others who shared his values. They supported and encouraged each other to do the right thing. Daniel and his friends poured themselves into their studies. When the three years of training were over, "The king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king" (Daniel 1:19).
They passed their studies, their job interviews and their spiritual tests with flying colors.
Springboard to success
If we look at the challenges in our lives positively, they will help us grow. We'll develop the character we need to succeed both physically and spiritually.
We become unnerved by change when we feel we've lost control of our lives. Daniel's example shows that we need to put our trust in God to work things out, as well as do what we can to improve negative circumstances.
The Bible contains many other examples of how people respond to change. These examples can help us see how to deal with the challenges we face.
Consider Joseph. Though he was condemned to slavery and prison in Egypt, his trust in God and his hard work finally brought him to a position of ruler ship over the whole nation.
Ruth, in a touching example of devotion to her mother-in-law and to God, left her people and her homeland behind. The book of Ruth shows how God blessed her for this.
When Joshua was to take over a difficult new job-leading all Israel into the Promised Land-God gave him the encouragement and advice he needed. We, too, can take encouragement from God's words to Joshua:
"I will not leave you nor forsake you.... This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:5, 8-9).
If we obey God's law, God tells us we will enjoy ultimate success. When times are tough, we can remember that God never forsakes us.
Let's look at some tips that can help us stay close to God through the transitions in our lives.
*Make time for prayer. It may take some effort and creativity to work out a regular time and place for privacy, but contact with God becomes even more important as we face the stresses of change. Sticking to a schedule gives stability to your life. Praying, sleeping, eating and exercising at regular times can help you feel in control of your life.
*Strengthen your foundation. Study God's Word for a true perspective of what is important. Study the life of Jesus Christ, our foundation (I Corinthians 3:11). How he handled the challenges in his life sets us the perfect example.
Christ told us it would take work: "Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock" (Luke 6:47-48).
Studying the principles in God's Word gives us a firm foundation for facing floods of discouragement and difficulties.
*Stay in touch with your family. Many young people moving away from home or going to college let their family ties slip. But it's a difficult transition for both child and parents, and keeping in touch can really help. Even if things weren't going well in the family, now is a good time to patch up the relationship, if possible, and draw strength from it.
• Build strong friendships with friends of like mind. Friends with the same values can help in times of trouble. We can encourage and stir up one another to love and good works if we keep in constant contact with God's Church and his people (Hebrews 10:24-25).
*Give to others. By turning outward, we can overcome loneliness and get to know others. We can practice the outgoing concern for others that God teaches us. "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).Staying close to God is the key to surviving-and thriving-in times of change or turmoil in our lives. Accept the challenges, and accept the help God offers. Then, like Daniel, Joseph, Ruth and Joshua, you'll pass life's tests with flying colors!