Handling Change

What are you like at making up your mind? I think I’m pretty good at it. Need to go left or right? Go left. Need to take the stairs or the lift, take the lift. Relax and watch telly or go for a run? Go for a run!

Not really … I’d probably choose to watch telly!

However, it’s in that last choice where my decision-making ability seems to go out the window. I subscribe to nearly all the streaming channels, which in the beginning was a great thing. I had some programmes in mind I wanted to binge-watch, so I loaded up the various apps, clicked play, and sat back.

Now I’ve gone through all the initial stuff I wanted to watch I find that I’ve hit a wall of indecisiveness. So much good stuff, so many options, but that’s the issue. I scroll, and I read the description, and I note it sounds interesting enough to watch. Yet, I keep scrolling, because maybe, just maybe, there’s a programme that’ll pop up I’ve yet to discover that is just that little bit more intriguing!

Should have just gone for that run!

It’s the same when I’m in a book shop, or picking from a restaurant menu, so many choices, so many in fact I’m in danger of being overwhelmed.

This phenomenon is called ‘choice overload’ or ‘overchoice’, and it’s an actual psychological issue and one that most of us suffer from. It has been shown that we perform better and make our mind up quicker when we’re given a small list of things to choose from. The larger the choice, the more frozen with indecision we become. Even when we think we’ve made a decision, we can quickly change our mind again, not sure what is the best thing to have or do or watch. It can become quite stressful until eventually we metaphorically throw our hands up in the air and settle for nothing or maintain the status quo. Maybe, behind it all, is the simple suggestion that we don’t actually like change and having too many choices causes us to change our thinking over and over again?

How easy do you cope with change?

Change can be painful. If we’re called to make a significant shift out of a comfortable way of thinking and doing things, then the distress can be extensive. We’d rather not go through the discomfort.

But change happens. It’s inevitable. We know that from experience don’t we? As we go from one stage of life to another, things change. We all grow up, our bodies change, the way we think about the world evolves. I see this in my kids, as they’ve got older they’ve become more independent, like not wanting to call me Daddy anymore. A small change for some of you, possibly, a significant emotional transition for me.

Things change.

In the local church, like the one I lead, Freedom Church in Leeds, things change. It’s inevitable, even if we don’t like it at times. Paradoxically, most local churches, quite rightly, want to experience growth. However, where they are growing in number, you might find people moaning that things just aren’t the same any more. You might hear statements like: “Once we knew everyone” or “The congregation is full of strangers with all kinds of different ideas.”

Change can feel awkward and uncomfortable.

However, God is always calling us to step forward and participate in changing this world for good, bringing it back into the Kingdom of God. But to do this, He’s is continuously challenging us to change. I’m not sure there are exceptions to this.

Jesus died on the cross to change our relationship with God. He died to give us the opportunity for a new life with Him. So that we’re able to turn away from our sinful natures, change direction and follow God’s ways as His children.

We might resist change. We don’t like it. We’re quite comfortable, thank you very much. If we carry this attitude, we might find that we get stuck in a rut. It takes enormous effort to get out of a rut. If we find ourselves in a rut, then we’re not really living. As Christians, we’re not allowing the Holy Spirit to challenge us to get off the road and go to places we haven’t been before, both literally and metaphorically. It is inconceivable to think that God is not calling His Church at this moment in history to undergo changes of some sort. And in actuality for every other moment in history that has gone before us.

Some of God’s desired changes for us may need to be taken slowly, small step by small step. We’ll find the pain of change will be mild, but it will be ongoing. On other occasions, we might need to change swiftly, in this case, our distress might be more considerable but will be over quickly. Any change could upset us, make us feel uncomfortable, even make us want to rebel against the change. What makes it harder is that the changes facing us might not be fully understood at first. We might be tempted to close the shutters, block out any thought that the changes are useful.

Change sometimes means pushing aside caution, subduing our personal biases, and bravely undertaking something new for Jesus Christ and His Gospel. The New Testament talks a lot about “new life”, being “changed or transformed” through what Christ has done for us in His death and resurrection.

Often we think of this in an individual and personal way, and this is quite right, but the New Testament is also talking to the whole Church – the people of God.

I would even go so far as to say that if the Church is not continually being challenged to change, be made new, be reformed and transformed by Christ, then it’s in a rut, and there is nothing exciting about being in a rut.

What are some of the ruts you are stuck in? Remember a rut is something that always keeps us going down the same track. At first, it’s a well-trodden path, then a groove, and eventually a pit. It’s tough to get out of a deep rut, it keeps us from going anywhere else to see and try different ways of doing things.

The Apostle Paul said that we have been saved through the death and resurrection of Jesus so that we “could be empowered to walk in the freshness of new life.” (Romans 6:4).

That newness means getting out of the rut of old habits, the rut of impatience, prejudice and intolerance, the rut that leads us to think that the Church is there to meet our needs and not giving a second thought to anyone else and their needs; the rut that doesn’t allow us to get out of our comfort zones and talk to strangers at Church but always leads us to down the same track to the few people we feel comfortable with; the rut that says it’s someone else’s job to help to reach those that don’t yet know Christ.

Jesus died for us to bring change and renewal into our lives and into the life of His Church. If you’re a believer, make it this your prayer, “Lord, change our hearts to go where you are leading us”. A Christian life should be a life of regular change – a willingness to change direction, to adapt, or even create change.

Let me leave you with this quote from Max Lucado, a best selling author and Church leader – “God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way.”

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