With just two days left before I drive three hours to get to the university that I’ll be studying at for the majority of the next three years, I guess now would be a good time to write about change. For a lot of people, there aren’t many scarier combinations of six letters in the English language. Unfortunately, if you’re one of those people, change happens, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Saying that, perhaps the majority of change is neither good nor bad, it’s what you make of it. Progress is change. It’s change in the forward direction, and where would we be without progress? You see, what most change really does is unsettle us. It doesn’t always have to be hard, but often we make it hard as we struggle to get used to our new circumstances.
I’m not saying this because I’m some sort of superhuman who copes amazingly with change all the time. I tend to just try not to think about it, which normally keeps me moving on in happy oblivion, but, when it comes to things like the shift from books to ebooks…well, it’s safe to say that I would happily incinerate all ereaders and press a universal delete button for ebooks. We all have areas of comfort in our lives, things that we don’t want to lose, things that we want to stay the same forever, and when those things are threatened we react the strongest. This change is the hardest, this is the change that we always want to resist.
It’s also the sort of change that it’s easiest to blame God for. It is often our way to say to God, ‘You can do what you like with this, this and that…but don’t touch that part of my life, leave that how it is.’ There are parts of our lives that we deem perfect, parts where everything seems to be alright. Perhaps those are the parts of our lives that God wants to challenge the most. This is mostly speculation, but it’s no secret in the Bible that it is wrong to place anything in our lives above God…yet I think that in the Western world, and I know this is true of my life, we often place our comfort and security above God. If we are comfortable and secure, then wonderful, life’s going well, but as soon as those things are disrupted, suddenly it’s ‘Why me, God? What have I done to deserve this?’ Our relationship with God often depends on our circumstance, and that’s not the way it should be.
I think that from a spiritual point of view, we need change, because we need to learn how to relate to God and we need to remember that God is more important than any situation we find ourselves in. I don’t believe that every bad thing, every negative change, is caused by God, but I believe that God can use any and all of our troubles to bring us back to him.
I’ll illustrate this with the example of Samson (read his story in Judges 13-16). His situation changed a lot in life. He was raised as a Nazirite (because of a prophecy and a strict vow before his birth) in a mixed Israelite/Philistine culture, given immense strength by God, his first marriage involved killing a lot of Philistines, he led Israel for 20 years, then his second marriage led to his betrayal and the loss of his strength, before he killed thousands of Philistines and himself in one final display of power in the temple of Dagon. His circumstances changed a lot throughout his lifetime, but in the final chapter of his life (found in Judges 16) we see how his worst change yet leads to his reconciliation with God. In a matter of days, he goes from being married to a beautiful woman (Delilah) to that woman betraying the secret of his strength (his unshaven hair…long story) to the Philistine leaders, which leads to him being shaved, blinded, and put up in Dagon’s temple for the Philistines’ entertainment. That’s a pretty major change for the worse. But it is at this point that Samson prays to God. Previously, he has been arrogant, lustful and self-serving, never acknowledging that his awesome strength is a gift from God, but now, he humbles himself and calls out to God, and God uses him one last time to drive a wedge between the idolatrous Philistines and his wayward people, the Israelites.
We can take heart from Samson’s story because it shows us that God can use even the worst situations to bring us back to him. But, whilst it is an encouragement, it is also a warning: a warning against becoming too arrogant, or feeling so secure that nothing can bring us down. Change happens, sometimes for the worst, but we should never discount God, we should never believe that a situation is beyond his power, because, as Paul writes in Romans, he makes all things work together for the good of those who love him. Notice that Paul doesn’t write ‘happiness’, he writes ‘good’, and I think that’s because sometimes, the best thing for us isn’t always the most pleasant.
Change is a part of life. Yes, it’s hard, but most of the changes that we get wound up about really aren’t worth the pain. Things like the iPhone operating system being updated (yes, I was one of the ones moaning about iOS7) really aren’t worth it. Getting annoyed at ebooks really isn’t worth it (yes, again I’m looking at myself). We’ll all be able to cope with change better once we stop worrying about the inconsequential changes, and start looking for God in the big ones.
If only it were that simple.