A wise professor told me once, “You can never step in the same river twice.” Each time you step in, the river is different. So, where can you find solid ground in times of change?
If life was changing rapidly before, the last few months and weeks have accelerated that change dramatically. Will we ever gather in large groups again? Will “social distancing” ever go away? How long will the economy take to come back? Will it come back? What about the changes in power structures and society from the unrest around racism? Could this election season in the US be the most contentious, even violent, ever?
People have opinions about all those questions, but no one knows for sure. In some ways I hope things don’t go back to “normal,” at least the normal we had in the past. Consumerism, injustice (both of them even inside the church), and a whole lot of other things need to permanently change.
Change is stressful, even change that’s good. Change that involves trauma is of course that much more stressful. How do you keep your sanity when life is so different? We’ve never been able to guarantee the future, and it seems even more uncertain now. How do you stay grounded?
Psychologically, biologically, and especially spiritually, we actually know quite a lot about this process. Here are three things to focus on that will help you find solid ground in times of change.
Focus on what you Can Do
God has not asked you to do everything, but He does ask you to do something. Research demonstrates that you can survive enormous stress so much better when you focus on what you can do.
You have a choice about what your mind does. That’s something you can do. Manage your attention. Choose intentionally how much social media or cable news you engage in. Make sure you are regularly and intentionally giving your mind positive uplifting input such as books, podcasts, online material, etc. Learn to feed yourself.
Steward your physical body carefully. That’s something you can do. Get appropriate nutrition. Exercise regularly. Get adequate rest – sleep, mental rest, Sabbath rest, etc.
Choose the people you interact with. That’s something you can do. If you’re involved in toxic or codependent relationships, you can change that. Make sure you are regularly connected with other healthy people. (That may take extra energy if you’re an introvert, but it’s worth it.)
You can learn new skills, new information, new habits. Take charge of your learning; in today’s digital world the possibilities are endless. That’s something you can do.
When you feel stressed or overwhelmed, get a bit of rest. And then look at what next thing you can do. It may seem small, very small. That’s OK! Doing that seemingly small thing will make a difference, and it will give you an internal sense of movement and control.
Focus on what Cannot Change
Basing your life on things that can be taken away is not wise. That’s the scenario Jesus described, of the foolish man who built his house on the sand, and it was swept away. (Matthew 7:26-27)
When you think of it, most of what we count on every day can be taken away. The economy can crash. You could lose your job. Your health or good looks will change at some point. The people around you could let you down, hurt you, or leave. The government can change. All the systems we tend to rely on are temporary.
Yes, we work to wisely provide for ourselves and our families, build healthy relationships, and improve the society around us. But recent events have demonstrated again that everything we thought was normal can be removed in an amazingly quick moment.
That’s why you must build your life on what is unchangeable. And that’s God Himself. He’s the only One who never changes. (Hebrews 13:8) What He says you can count on. He cannot lie. (Hebrews 6:18)
That’s not some religious slogan; it’s a life plan. Do money God’s way. Do relationships God’s way. Manage your time God’s way. Manage your mind God’s way. If He is first, He will take care of the rest. (Matthew 6:33)
That doesn’t mean you won’t have trouble. It does mean that even when the storms come, your house will stand. (Matthew 7:24-25)
Focus on what is Most Important
If everything is important, nothing is important. And what seems most urgent right now is usually not what is most important.
Social media and cable news have given us a very distorted view of what’s important. The volume in our ears and in our heads based on those messages can be hard to ignore. Yes, sometimes what we hear is important. But don’t let others, or the media, decide for you what is most important.
I would submit that what is most important follows this pathway:
- Your own relationship with God. Nothing compares to this. (Matthew 22:37-38)
- Your relationship with those closest to you (spouse, family, close friend). (Matthew 22:39-40)
- The mission God has given you to do, as best as you understand it. (John 21:21-22)
If you take care of the main things first, the other things will be much easier to navigate. Sure, there will be stress. But this is the basic principle Jesus talked about when He said, “Seek first the kingdom of God.”
Remember, God has not asked you to do everything. But He has asked you to do something.
I have to remind myself of this often. I get stressed too. So I have to focus on being about my Father’s business, as best as I understand it. And the rest of life tends to fall much more clearly into place.
Your Turn: What are you focusing on during this time of turmoil? Which of these three primary categories do you need to work on most? Leave a comment below.
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- Everything is disrupted. How can you find solid ground in times of change? There are things you CAN do, things that CANNOT change, things that ARE important. That’s how. Tweet that.
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