By Rev. Dyrie Francis
The human experience is punctuated by countless changes that vary in significance. Some life changes are pleasant and hold great prospects while others seem distressful from the start. The way we respond reflects our outlook on change and often determines its effect on our lives. We read or hear stories of those who have overcome extreme life circumstances and wonder how they are able to maintain perspective and rise above their circumstances to inspire others in a meaningful way.
Sister Dort was a ninety-year-old woman who used her Facebook account to connect with family and friends. What a profound impact she made, sharing encouraging Scriptures and photos, and updating her friends and family on her life transitions. Others much younger physically, resist learning how to utilize the technology available, thinking they are “too old” to learn. For them, the process of accepting that life has changed and offers exciting ways of staying in touch can seem overwhelming. Some yield to despair and loneliness in the advanced years of their lives, especially when isolated from family in an assisted living facility, nursing home, or alone at home. Perseverance and commitment to learn something new can equip those who, like Dort, accept change, bringing rich dividends of connectedness and decreasing the risk of isolation and loneliness. Not only is the learner encouraged, he or she also becomes a source of blessing to others.
Another believer who suffered severe burns from head to toe impacted me greatly. Wrapped like a mummy with only his eyes visible, this man exhibited such joy and peace. His armor of righteousness was impenetrable. His severe burns caused intense pain, yet he girded his waist with the belt of truth – the Scriptures. He shared the Gospel of salvation with every member of the healthcare team he encountered. He lifted the shield of faith with courage and confidence in the God in whom he believed, never giving up on God despite his circumstances. His secret lay in his close communion with God and his loving and transparent relationship with other believers. I wept many times for his pain and drew closer to the God who could sustain a person with such unwavering faith amid intense suffering.
I have found that the following five actions can help secure a positive outcome when we face inevitable changes. They will not only improve the course of our lives but also equip us to be encouragers and blessers of others experiencing change.
- Accept. Accept the notion that changes are inevitable. To passively resist change is counter-productive and only increases related stress. In his book Who Moved My Cheese? Dr. Spencer Johnson demonstrated that the characters Hem and Haw were totally unprepared for the disappearance of their cheese. They were angry and refused to accept that there would no longer be cheese in their maze. Why? They never considered their circumstances would change; therefore, accepting the change was a major challenge.
- Attend to. A vital step in the process of change is to attend to small changes before they become large and unmanageable. Too frequently minor changes, like red flag warnings, go unheeded and calamity follows. Take health, for example. Debilitating health issues do not usually occur suddenly. Instead, they creep up with the extra added sugar, salt, fat, and lack of physical exercise that promote a healthier lifestyle. A popular adage is “We are what we eat!”
For years I pleaded with a fellow believer to gradually decrease the number of packets of sugar she added to her cup of tea. She laughed and ignored the red flags. One day she approached me in tears. I asked what was wrong, and her answer was painful for me because she had ignored the warning signs. She had been diagnosed with full-blown diabetes. How about preparing for advanced aging since we already know God could extend our lives beyond the ability to perform self-care? Proverbs 27:23 (NKJV) instructs, “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds.”
- Adapt. Adaptability is vital to successfully navigating change. Instead of reacting negatively to an impending change, be open to consider what good may be in the change. Proverbs 3:5-7 is a directive to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
We can miss the opportunity to grow in different areas because we resist change without looking at what is involved, considering how we can improve ourselves, or contemplating how we can improve the way we do things. James 5:13-14 provides purposeful ways of adapting to personal changes. He instructed,
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. (James 5:13-14)
- Assess/Admit. Get help to assess your needs, whether emotional, spiritual, physical, or financial, and admit areas where you have need. Pride and the spirit of independence can hinder our assessment and admission that we need assistance. Professional Christian counselors, mature spiritual guides, and professionals in social work can provide needs assessments. We are our brother’s keeper in the household of faith and the hand of God to serve the poor and needy in the community. The Apostle Paul admonished the Galatians believers: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (6:2).
- Ask/Accept. Jesus commands His followers: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” (Matthew 7:7). Sometimes we are unwilling to ask for or accept help because of cultural customs, past experiences, or ignorance about available resources and how to navigate the system. As members of the household of faith and disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, may we purposefully seek out hurting brothers and sisters who are facing critical life changes. In addition, let us also look for the needs of the unchurched in our communities as a way of introducing Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. In serving the poor and oppressed in our community, our brothers and sisters, we demonstrate to the world that our God loves, cares for, and reigns over all the earth!
In our efforts to accept/anticipate change, attend to small changes, adapt to change, assess/admit our needs, and ask for and accept assistance, may God help us to pray:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
About the Author
Rev. Dyrie Francis R.N., M.S.N., M.A.C.L. lives in South Florida, where she and her husband, Karl, pioneered Living Word Open Bible Church in Cooper City, thirty years ago. The congregation is comprised of believers from 22 countries, including a minority of Caucasian Americans. The church celebrates unity in diversity and eagerly pursues the fulfillment of the Great Commission regardless of race or color. God and family are central to Dyrie’s life and ministry paradigm. She loves people and serves through teaching the Word and the ministry of prayer. Underlying her calling to service is a deep and inescapable sensitivity to God’s heart on justice and the plight of the oppressed. She serves as a bridge to many and will continue by the grace of God. Dyrie and Karl have two adult sons, Jonathan (married to Andrea) and Bryan (married to Terrone) and one granddaughter, Christine Noelle.