How to Thrive During Big Life Changes

Hello again, my fabulous reader. If you’re dedicated enough to this blog to have noticed that 1.5-month-long hiatus, it’s good to see you again! If not, there’s grace and you still have time to repent and start paying more attention to me.

Kidding.

The last month or so has brought a lot of change into my life, and the fact that you clicked on this post tells me that you can somehow relate. I’m excited to join you on this adventure and offer up what I’ve learned!

Here are a few things that have happened in my life recently:

  • I moved–by myself–out of state to Boulder, Colorado
  • I started my first grown-up job (it’s actually an internship, but it’s set up like a full-time, grown-up job, so I’m calling a spade a spade here)
    • In the same vein, started working towards a real career. This is a year-long youth ministry internship and I’m doing exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life!
  • I’ve had to figure out how to find community outside of school for the first time
  • Moved into long-distance relationship territory (on a related note, does God ever take you places you swore you’d never allow yourself to end up? Yeah, me too)

Some of those things have been AMAZING…and some of them have been really difficult.

Lately I’ve been slowwlllyyy working my way through the book of Matthew. I haven’t read through any of the Gospels in awhile, so it’s nice to experience the life of Jesus with fresh eyes.

There are infinite lessons we can learn from the earthly life of Jesus, but one thing that stands out to me today is that Jesus’ life–especially during His last few years on earth–was never routine. If there is one person in history who understands change, it would have to be Him. As Hebrews 4:15 says, we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. We serve a highly relatable God.

I combed through Matthew one more time with this topic in mind, all the while thinking back on my experiences over the last month or so, and I’m excited to share with you what I’ve learned!

How Jesus Faced Change

He prioritized community.

Six verses into beginning His ministry, Jesus starts to gather His “pack.”

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea–for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Matthew 4:18-22

He calls these four men to join Him as one of His first recorded acts. Sure, He probably wanted as much time to disciple them as possible, but Jesus was also quite concerned about simply loving one another. I think the biggest reason He started building His community so soon was that He knew the importance of having an inner circle of beloved friends.

I’m not sure I realized this before I moved to Boulder. I’m fairly introverted and for a few weeks I convinced myself that I needed to “settle in” before starting to look for community.

But do you have any idea how lonely that is?

Looking back, I wish I would have followed Jesus’ example and made finding “my people” my number one priority right off the bat. I think I could have avoided a lot of heartache.

There weren’t established churches back in Jesus’ day, but nowadays it’s just a matter of joining one. If you’ve just moved to a new city (especially in the U.S.), there’s a great chance that there is already a small group close by waiting for you to join. If you’re newly engaged or married, etc., it might be time to join a group specifically designed for people in your stage of life. Along with a group, try to find 2 specific people:

  1. A person (or people) who can spiritually invest in you
  2. A person (or people) who you can spiritually invest in

Some of you may be in the unique position of legitimately not having anything like that nearby. I’ve actually been there…although I was nine, so I guess I should say my parents have been there. We lived in a largely Mormon town for about four years and they had a difficult time finding anyone who believed what they did.

In that case, God may be calling you to do exactly what Jesus did: form your “pack” yourself! You don’t need to have extensive church-planting knowledge to go out and look for a few people who are interested in talking about Jesus and studying the Bible for a couple hours each week. It takes guts, but it’s worth it! Even Jesus didn’t try to go through life alone.

He embraced His purpose.

As soon as He had Peter, Andrew, James, and John by His side, He was ready to go.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

-Matthew 4:23

What are your spiritual gifts? Have you ever thought about it? If you haven’t, this spiritual gifts test might be a good place to start.

Jesus knew that His purpose during His ministry was to serve, teach, preach, and heal, and He wasted no time getting started.

Every person has the same purpose: love God and love your neighbor. If you want to get a little less vague and a little more practical than that, the spiritual gifts you have been given can give you clues as to what that means for you in everyday life. If you’re not sure what to do with yours, it might be a good idea to sit down with a spiritual leader in your life and ask.

A good place to start is by serving someone, and not all serving has to be inherently spiritual. If you’re a new empty-nester, you could volunteer to babysit for a couple who could use a date night! If you’re a newlywed, focus on serving your spouse in little ways. You get the idea.

He allowed himself to mourn and rest.

Maybe you’re not going through a happy change. Maybe it’s a death, or an illness, or a divorce. Whatever it is, I hope you’ll find some solace in Matthew 14:1-13. I’ll let you read verses 1-12 yourself here, but what’s happened is that John the Baptist has been grotesquely murdered. Jesus’ reaction to hearing of it is pretty heart-wrenching.

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. (v. 13a)

Jesus, who was as relational on earth as He is in spirit, withdrew to a place where He knew He could be alone. This was partly because He knew the danger He was in because of Herod, but it seems significant that He would choose a deserted location.

He didn’t try to convince Himself that nothing was wrong. He took some time away from the crowds to mourn and pray and rest.

I’ll share with you a prayer I wrote down in my quiet time journal shortly after I moved to Boulder. I’d been listening to “London” by Brandon Heath a lot and suddenly that song was my life (If you replace all instances of “London” with “Boulder,” of course), I was convinced of it, and so of course I cried every time I listened to it. Which was often. So dramatic. I was in a pretty low place when I wrote it.

“God…being here is so much harder than I ever imagined. I feel completely alone and entirely restrained. I’m afraid. I’ll wait for You to come and join me here, Lord, and until then I’ll try to be content…but I don’t even have a place I can go to privately cry. I’m lost in this city and I miss having a home.”

I had just moved to arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the country, ladies and gents, and of course I knew on some level that God was there with me. But in that moment I knew the importance of letting myself just feel what I was feeling, even if I didn’t feel I could justify it. I brought it to God, and He made something beautiful of it in the weeks that followed.

Maybe whatever major change that’s happened to you isn’t even a bad thing, but it’s brought with it some heartache. Maybe you don’t get to see certain family members quite as often. Maybe you’ve left friends behind, or you’ve lost some degree of independence. Whatever it is, allow yourself to react without convincing yourself that you’re wrong for it. Take time to rest if you need it.

And then get back in the game.

When the crowds heard it, they followed Him on foot from the towns. When He went ashore, He saw a great crowd; and He had compassion for them and cured their sick.

verses 13b and 14

He battled through prayer.

The significance of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane is something that I only realized this last time I read through it…and even then, only with the help of David Guzik’s commentary on chapter 26. You can read the full passage (Matthew 26:36-46) here.

Guzik has this to say about Jesus’ famous prayer at the garden of Gethsemane:

“Jesus found victory at the cross by succeeding in the struggle in Gethsemane. Peter – just like us – failed in later temptation because he failed to watch and pray. The spiritual battle is often won or lost before the crisis comes.”

It seems silly, almost irreverent, to think of Jesus’ crucifixion as simply a “life change,” and that’s not what I’m implying, but if His preferred method of preparing for his murder was by prayer, why shouldn’t we follow His example and make spiritual war when we go through hard times?

Pray for your family.

Pray for your own spiritual health.

Pray for increased closeness with God.

Pray for anything on your mind.

And pray as often as it’s on your mind.

One other thing I want to point out here is that Jesus went back and prayed by Himself three different times. What that tells me is that praying for something more than once does not indicate a lack of faith. Keep asking, seeking, and knocking.

And remember, you’ve got this.

The God of the universe is walking with you, and the Holy Spirit is residing in you. Don’t underestimate the power of that.

Until next time,

Jenna

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4 thoughts on “How to Thrive During Big Life Changes

  1. Congrats on your big life changes! I just moved to boulder to start college and have been looking for a good bible study. Can you recommend one for me?

    1. That’s great, congratulations on your big move as well! The church I go to, First Presbyterian Church of Boulder, has a great college ministry that will get you plugged in with a small group that meets during the week for Bible study. I’ve also heard great things about Flatirons but have never been myself.

      As far as just a personal Bible study goes, Lifeway has some good ones and there are also devotionals that you can have sent straight to your email. I also really enjoy just watching sermons online by different pastors.

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