The Process of Transition
by Graham Cooke
The world around us is full of change. These changes are not just technological. Keeping pace with man’s inventiveness is amazingly difficult. No sooner does a breakthrough piece of engineering hit the market than it is made smaller, more compact, and more powerful. Whatever you buy is out of date before you learn how to use it properly.
International boundaries are changing; different nations are forming or reforming. Economies everywhere are going through profound change with the realization that no economy will ever be safe again. Some changes affect not only the way we live but also our perception of who we are as human beings.
Despite the immensity of change taking place in our world, very few of us have learned to deal with change in a healthy way. Without being aware of reasons why, we seem to put up instinctive and devious barriers to anything remotely looking like change. There is something in most people that profoundly dislikes transition, and it will cause them to do amazing things in order to not have to go through any change at all.
Transition is an adventure. But it is an adventure into the unknown with all the attendant risks that the uncharted can formulate around us. Change provokes our hearts because it challenges the status quo. It makes us feel uneasy and vulnerable because it takes us into territory where we have never before been. We are happy to talk about Abraham going out without knowing where he was going, simply trusting God to get him there (see Hebrews 11:8). However, when it is our turn to make the journey of faith, it is a different matter. God has His own road maps for times such as these. The old ones are useless to us, and the new ones are filled out as we go.
Every change involves a letting go of one thing to reach out for what is next. It is death by installments-the slow death of our mind-sets, our attitudes, perceptions, and paradigms with apparently nothing obvious to take their place. That is, we only see the replacement concept as we journey. We don’t just see it, though; we experience it. Sometimes our experience is first, and we go through something that we understand only in retrospect. It is important therefore, if we are to journey with the Lord into new lands, that we build in time to reflect and review where we are and where we have come from. Our road map to faith must be kept up to date and relevant for anyone else coming after us.
Pioneers draw the maps; they seldom enjoy them! Every day’s journey into the new is accomplished by a slow and, at times, painful letting go of the old. There is a death process to be worked through in transition. Future fruit comes from present death (see John 12:24).
The Holy Spirit will, if we allow Him, teach us how to be present to the moment with God. There is a God-consciousness that is so compelling that we need never worry again. There is a peace so profound that is it unshakable. There is a rest in God so potent that the enemy fears it. (Rest is a weapon against evil.)
In order to be alive to God in this way, we must surrender to Him and to everything He brings. He allows in His wisdom what He could easily prevent by His power. The dying daily that is Paul’s description involves a death-to-self process. Change is the pivotal point of that process. If you enjoy God’s life, you cannot fear change. Where He is present, resistance has died.
Death, the understanding of change, liberates us to experience the adventure of new things. We welcome the risk because His life fizzes in our bloodstream. He sparkles with new gifts, new realms, fresh anointing, and different challenges to faith and love.
His great power will pitch us into battle with no thought but that His great love will shield us from the enemy. He is careful and carefree at the same time. Change is an opportunity to grow more like Him and to continue the sampling of all He has to offer. He Himself never changes; that is part of His beauty. He is so utterly faithful and unchanging that we always know exactly where we are in His heart.
He wants to impart the same unchanging nature to us so that we can partake of this aspect of His divine nature. Though unchanging in Himself, He causes ceaseless change round about Him. To know Him is to be changed by Him. He loves the journey that we are on. He has carefully thought through all the stages that we will experience. Death and life combine in Him. Unchanging changeableness is part of His mystique. Find meaning in Him, and you will understand your journey so much better. Everything begins and ends in Him, the Alpha and Omega of change.
The inevitability of change is made enjoyable by His presence. As we submit to each process, our appreciation of the journey grows and our faith increases. Change comes from within. Everything that God does in us comes from the inside to the outside. That is why our inward development is more important than the outward circumstances. If we give the Lord Jesus the ground He requires on the inside of our life, then each present set of external challenges shall diminish, if not disappear.
We will be excited about change because we are excited about the Lord. Our road map is being drawn as we experience life in Christ. If we keep hitting the same landmarks in our life, it is because we have probably resisted change from within.
Change helps us grow, and growth is part of life. Without challenge there is nothing to overcome, so faith cannot grow. This lack of expectation creates smallness in mind and heart.
Transition is about the discovery and connection of the inner man of the heart toward God (see Eph. 3:13-21). It is about discovering the rest of God (see Heb. 4) and being at peace in Him. It is restoring our relational paradigm with Almighty God. It is about breakthrough into an inner place of the spirit and learning how to remain there. Your inner man is the restful presence of Jesus in the external turmoil of your surroundings (see Mk. 4: 36- 39).
This is the opportunity that God is giving to us in the crisis of transition. He is holding out the very process of inward change and development. In crisis, we put our lives firmly into His care and we obey Him implicitly! Crisis, transition, and process open a door on a personal and corporate level for the people of God to come to know Him, experience Him, and be changed by Him. Crisis is the door of inward opportunity opening through the danger of external circumstances.
The Spirit searches all things in our lives and enables us to know the mind of the Lord (revelation) as well as to experience what God wants to give us in the situation (see I Cor. 2: 10-16).
Many times the storm breaks over us and we are unprepared for it. If we are used to living from our spirit, we can retreat there to our secret place and wait patiently for God. If we have not fully learned that discipline of grace, we may succumb to worry and fear. Then we will be tossed to and fro by circumstances and unsurrendered thought-processes. The inner man of the spirit is the anchor for the soul.
Here, in our distress, the kindness of God will reveal itself to us. He really wants us to succeed in crisis. He wants us to go through the door of opportunity and not be sidetracked by the difficulty in the situation. He will give us a second opportunity to succeed.
On a personal level, we may be going through tough circumstances that we are failing to process internally. We need to look and listen for the sweet voice of reason to come to us. It may come in a sermon, through a book we are reading, by a Scripture we are studying, from a prayer we receive in ministry, in a letter or card, through a prophetic word, or just in a telephone call from a concerned friend. The point, is, it will come! Many times, we miss it because our soul wants to hear only about deliverance, so we sift every word and discard those not compatible with our soulish desires. The inward man knows that process is the key to all God’s dealing with His people. Life is a journey. A friend of mine, Mary Dennison, once told me, “Don’t get so hung up on your destination that you forget to enjoy the journey!”
(Taken from A Divine Confrontation by Graham Cooke, copyright 1999, used by permission of Destiny Image Publishers; 167 Walnut Bottom Road; Shippensburg, PA 17257)
by Mary Ann Herzan
“O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39)
Sometimes the will of God is hard. We find ourselves in a place where we cannot believe what He is asking. After all, isn’t God supposed to be in my life to make it easier? Has He not said, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30)? Are we not supposed to trust that He goes before, preparing the way? Of course we are. But we must remember that He also said, “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life” (Matthew 7:14). We are looking at two sides of the same coin-discovering and doing God’s will. We must enter through the narrow gate (the hard part) in order to take His yoke upon us (the easy part). What is the “narrow gate” and “difficult way”? To put it simply, the narrow gate is the cross-the place where we lay down our wills and take up His. When we take up His will we are joining Him in His yoke, which becomes easy because He Himself is working in us to accomplish His purpose.
We are prone to look at our circumstances and call them our “cross,” but the true cross is in our heart, our will. Two people can be going through the same circumstance and one can be personally in the will of God and the other not, because the intent of our heart determines the will. When Jesus said that those who sought to be His disciples must take up their cross daily He did not mean that we were to just accept anything and everything that happened. He meant that in anything and everything we were to seek the will of the Father. This means that the will of God in our lives is not passive acceptance, but an active and continuous seeking and obeying. The circumstance is not the entirety of His will, but also our response and action in the circumstance.
If we look at the life of Jesus we see that He went often to the quiet hills. This place of solitude was where He fellowshipped with the Father, being renewed and counseled. I am convinced that Gethsemane was not His first encounter in the struggle of the will. Obviously, it was the most intense because of the magnitude of His upcoming suffering and death, but He was doing in this situation what He had done all along-going to His Father to seek and obey the Father’s will; it was the place where He “worked things out.” In public Jesus never apologized for the Father’s will; He never guessed or hesitated about it. When He spoke, it was with dignity, quiet confidence, and an unshakable authority people marveled at. This came from “taking up His cross” in private.
Though this applies to all Christians, I believe it is especially important for those in leadership. Years ago as I was preparing for a retreat I felt the Lord say to my heart, “Do not ever presume to speak to My children on My behalf without first speaking to Me!” What diplomat would dare, especially in a crisis, speak publicly of his or her own personal feelings rather than those of the leadership of the country represented? The diplomat must retreat to hear the heart and mind of the one in charge or great damage could result. Think of how often, in times of a crisis on foreign soil, we hear, “The White House is in constant communication….” I believe this is why we are warned not to raise people to leadership positions too quickly (I Timothy 5:22). They must be people who are willing to take the time to seek the Lord’s heart, and willing to obey with true humility, having taken the Lord’s will as their own.
To be a Christian disciple has great cost. The Father longs for us to be His “planting…that He may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:3b). One of the meanings of the Hebrew word used here for “glorified” is “to make clear.” We, as Christians, are in the world to make the Lord clear. The cost for this is to always enter the narrow gate of the cross, laying down what we might like to do or say and be willing to let Him make Himself clear through us. It reminds me of the time when Mother Teresa, though small in stature, silenced a room full of international dignitaries and leaders with the authority of her words when speaking about abortion. She was allowing the Lord to make Himself clear through her. Every person in the room recognized that “something” was behind her words; and that “something” was the power and presence of the Lord honoring a yielded heart and will. Just think what could happen if each of us held our tongues until we had wrestled in private with our wills!
Does this mean that we have to always “go it alone” or that we can’t talk about our feelings? If we look again at Gethsemane, we see that Jesus asked Peter, James and John to be with Him in His struggle. We know what happened-they slept during His time of great need. They did not understand the magnitude of what He was going through. His Father did not abandon Him; He saw…and sent angels to be where friends could not. We all need and should have those around us who provide a safe place to wrestle with our emotions. Yet, even if they do not grasp the reality of our struggle, our Father does, and He will do no less for us than He did for Jesus-He will send what is needed.
James 3:17 tells us, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable.” When we have wrestled through the narrow gate we find the peace of God that enables us to endure. We are no longer tossed to and fro by different scenarios in our mind; we no longer feel obliged to defend our actions. We may be asked to explain them but that is different than defending them.
Some time ago a friend of mine was struggling with whether a deep desire of her heart was the Lord’s will or not. As I asked her questions she assumed I was saying the desire was not His will, and began a mild defense. I told her that I was not looking for a “yes” or “no,” but for the peace that would be hers when she had struggled through to the heart of God. We can have peace in very difficult and painful circumstances. To see Jesus move through His final hours after Gethsemane was to see a man at peace. The peace won in Gethsemane kept Him through a time more difficult and dark than anyone before or since has had to experience-for He took the darkness of us all on Himself.
“Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8
The most important word I can give you about going through the narrow gate is to be honest in the Lord’s presence. As the psalmist says, “pour out your heart.” Nothing shocks Him; nothing will cause Him to turn away from you. I cannot say enough how much He values our being real with Him. If you’re angry, tell Him. Pour it out so that His grace and power can come in. If you’re afraid, verbalize it and then place Him and His promises alongside your fear. Let Him hold you, like a mother with a child, as you wrestle with your heart. No one can understand the depth of your feelings better than He.
We all have a “nevertheless” journey before us. We do not need answers from one another as much as we need encouragement to enter the narrow gate and find the peace of God that passes understanding-that does not need to understand. When we empty ourselves and can say, “Nevertheless,” Jesus rushes into that emptiness. He does not send us a parcel of peace but comes Himself. We discover a fellowship with Him that is more precious than anything; more precious even than the desire we wrestled with. It is the “life” that is promised after entering the narrow gate. Asaph took a “nevertheless” journey and discovered that place of fellowship in his wrestling; you can read about it in Psalm 73. He went into the sanctuary with confusion, envy, and anger, yet came out saying,
“Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.”
Mary Ann Herzan is director of David’s Heart, a ministry of East Immanuel Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.