Helping People Deal With Change

by James Rudy Gray

Some personalities embrace change while others are fearful of even the slightest change. Change, however, is something that we encounter throughout our journey on earth.

It is inevitable and it is real. Change happens. The issue affecting most people who are bothered by change is not really the change itself but how to deal with change.

Counselors and other people helpers seem to agree that if we are going to effectively help people deal with life issues, we must help them in three fundamental areas: how they think, feel, and act. These are three things everybody does. We all have a tendency to rely more heavily on one of these. Our personal "firing order" may be to think first, to react with feelings, or to jump into action.

As a Christian who is a counselor and does Christian counseling, I am convinced that the order of these three-thinking, feeling, acting-is a key in helping people. Our thoughts influence our feeling and our behavior. When we change how we think, we can change our feelings and behaviors. But for some people even the idea of changing their thoughts is threatening. Their perception of change is distorted. They take security in the routine or predictable. They like things to be stationary or familiar. Their outlook is colored by their feelings more than by their thoughts. Actually, they do realize that things have changed, because they often long for something in the past.

This is where genuine faith is so important. Faith is not always a golden key to health, wealth, and happiness. It is the best way to live. It does please God (Heb. 11:6). We are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). Faith is the channel through which impossible things can happen. Jesus said if we have the faith of a mustard seed we can see a mountain move. We can see things differently through faith and we can overcome obstacles and difficulties through faith. In 2 Corinthians 5:7 we are told that we "walk by faith not by sight." It is easy to walk by faith when no faith is required. It is easy to walk by sight and call it faith. But, it is only by really living with faith in Christ and His Word that we have the confidence and courage to effectively deal with change.

The media kept repeating the message after Sept. 11, 2001: "The world as we know it has changed." The world has always been changing. We have always been changing. We will continue to change, whether we accept it or not. The most comforting foundational truth we can help people understand is that God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So our faith in God is not just a resource for dealing with change but the source for dealing with change.

Everyone who is living is faced with changes throughout his or her life. The fact of these changes is not as important as how we interpret the changes. If our God is the Sovereign Lord, then no change is outside His ultimate control. If God is in control, we do not need to be! This is most likely the real problem underlying the fear of change: control. People who dislike change are usually people who need to feel that they are in control of their lives. A psychiatrist once noted, "The only sane people are those who know they are not in control." That does not mean we are not responsible for our actions or not accountable to God. It simply means we are not in control. God is.

Our circumstances and our lives are changing. God does not change. By trusting in the perfect God who does not ever need to change, we can find security in the changing cycles of life.

People who come to us for counseling are often in a crisis. During a time of crisis counselees are more likely to make major lifestyle changes than at any other time. They may already be feeling insecure, fearful, and anxious. Change is not going to be the most difficult task they face. How to change will be the issue. If they can know that God does not change and we are always changing, they can find a foundation for hope. From that foundation, the principles of faith can provide the encouragement and the Holy Spirit can minister the motivation for not only personally changing but dealing with the changes of life.

James Rudy Gray is certified as a professional counselor by the
National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the
American Association of Christian Counselors. He pastors
Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C.

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