Is it possible to feel two competing emotions at the same time? This happens a lot with that mysterious phenomenon called change. My experience is that when change is desired and initiated by you, it is usually welcomed with a great deal of enthusiasm. But, what about an unexpected change that comes out of nowhere? Not the everyday, “Oh, this is disappointing” type of change. I mean that sudden bad news that slams you to the pavement.
Change Is a Constant in Life
As a faith-based career coach, I have helped people for many years address this type of change, especially with job seekers who have lost their jobs. Change of various magnitudes is a constant in life, and understanding how God wants us to process unexpected change is a challenge.
I have seen all kinds of reactions to job loss and other types of hard-hitting change. So, what makes the difference?
When we are blind-sided by bad news, the emotional cycle is pretty predictable, moving from denial to anger to disorganization. This last stage starts the self-doubt and self-pity phase. If not addressed, it spirals down to the chaos stage. Then watch out, anything and everything crazy can happen, from retreating to the basement, to cursing God and quitting church, and even worse.
Moving Beyond the Victim Phase
I have seen a lot of emotion that causes irrational thought and actions. The key to moving beyond the victim phase in job change is not first and foremost your education or your resume; it’s that gut-level understanding of what’s happening to you both spiritually and emotionally. Likewise, with other bad news that brings about change, it’s easy to miss the opportunity for constructive reflection. I have been asked many times, “Does God really care?”
David writes this encouraging word in the Psalms,
He has never let you down, never looked the other way when you were being kicked around. He has never wandered off to do his own thing; he has always been right there listening (Ps. 22:24, The Message).
My Own Unexpected Change
So, what happens when unexpected change happens to the coach, the one who is usually counseling people through this journey? Let me share my story.
Back when I launched my career and marriage, there were two major future milestones I pondered: retirement and that golden day of our 50th wedding anniversary. Both seemed a lifetime away but came fairly quickly!
I was married on April 13, 1968, to my high school sweetheart in a tiny church in a small Iowa farming community. We were in college and dirt poor, but filled with big dreams. I remember our twenty-fifth anniversary in 1993, when we repeated our vows and joked about making it to our fiftieth. On April 13th of this year, that magical day happened.
As we marked this milestone anniversary with friends and family, most of our guests did not know that our grown daughter (also a wife and mother of three children) had just been told that she had a large, non-cancerous brain tumor. We were brought to our knees at hearing the news. Really, God? This couldn’t be true. Planning our fiftieth celebration and preparing for our daughter’s invasive brain surgery at the same time was a true test of our faith.
Isolation Is the Great Enemy
I teach my coaching clients that isolation is your greatest enemy. The basement is not your friend and lashing out at family and friends who try to help is counterproductive. If you feel yourself spiraling out of control, stop and pray. I continually remind my clients that God never wastes our time. There is an eternal purpose in every event in our lives and the conversations that follow. King David put it best:
Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me (Ps. 23:4, NLT).
Ask God to show you key individuals you can ask to pray for you in your time of crisis. God tells us, “The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense” (Prov. 27:9, NLT). Create a list of people you trust and who are mature in their faith. Share your burden with them and ask for help and support. There is great power in unity, and that unity in prayer promotes purpose, focus, and momentum. Ask your prayer partners to help you focus on God’s promises to meet your needs of hope, healing, and family unity.
Praying on Time and On Target
As our daughter began realizing the magnitude of this surgery, we reached out to family and friends of faith and asked them to pray. I learned that prayer needs to be on time and on target for maximum impact. On the day of the surgery, we felt an unspeakable peace knowing that people all over the country were united with us in prayer.
The four-hour surgery went by quickly, as we were both kept busy responding to our prayer team! The surgeon came back with great news—he removed 95 percent of the tumor and the remainder could be treated later with the prognosis for total recovery. We stopped in the middle of the waiting room and rejoiced together, thanking God for his grace.
He Has Overcome the World
If our story has struck a chord with you regarding your own circumstances, take heart. Whether you are facing a job transition, a medical crisis, or a family emergency, God continues to stay true to his promises. Jesus said,
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33, NIV).
Our incredible God can overcome any and all changes in your life. Stay near to him, be patient, and give God time to work because he will surely make a way.
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